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Rays' Gross, Upton botch another routine fly

ST. PETERSBURG — For the second straight Sunday, RF Gabe Gross and CF B.J. Upton had a miscommunication that turned a routine fly ball into an extra-base hit.

Last time, Gross said the two collided in Texas because they didn't hear each other.

This time, the miscue was caused when they did hear each other.

With two on and two out in the eighth, Marlins CF Cody Ross hit a fly ball to right-center. Upton and Gross converged but stopped dead in their tracks as the ball bounced between them.

The two-run triple put the Marlins up 9-2.

"I called for it, and as soon as I called for it, I heard him call for it," Gross said. "I think the main thing was we were hearing the same thing and we both just stopped. As much as that is a reason it happened, there's still no excuse. That just should never happen."

Gross said their miscue in Texas, "when neither of us heard each other," was probably in both of their minds on Sunday's play. But Gross, who was acquired April 23 from the Brewers, said he's confident they'll work better together as they play more side-by-side.

"That happens," manager Joe Maddon said of the miscommunication. "When you do make the call and it is simultaneous, it can mess you up."

B.J. ON BASES: Upton has already tied his career high in steals (22) he set last season, when he missed a month with a strained quadriceps muscle. Maddon said Upton, who is 22-for-30 and ranks third in the American League, has been more aggressive on the basepaths — but also more savvy.

"As he gains more experience, he becomes better at it," Maddon said. "I think he's choosing better spots to go and has a better idea of what he wants to do. He's been thrown out a couple times on calls that were wrong, quite frankly, so it could even be a better percentage than it is."

ON HIS GAME: RHP Grant Balfour, appearing in his first game in a week, was very sharp, striking out four of the seven hitters he faced. Balfour, one of the last cuts in spring training, has performed well since getting called up last month to fill in while Troy Percival was on the disabled list, posting a 2.45 ERA in 71/3 innings and striking out 11.

BARTLETT BREAK: Though Maddon had alluded to using Evan Longoria at some point at shortstop to give Jason Bartlett a break, he said off days today and next Monday will help the situation. However, with Bartlett and his wife, Kelly, expecting their first child in the coming weeks, Longoria will likely get his shot at short soon.

GRIFFEY TALK: There has been online speculation that Ken Griffey is willing to waive his no-trade clause to get dealt to Tampa Bay, but his agent, Brian Goldberg, told mlb.com Sunday that nothing has been brought to them. "It's got to be a media member thinking out loud," he said. Rays executive VP Andrew Friedman declined comment on the topic.

MISCELLANY: Maddon said he still hasn't decided who will start in place of Edwin Jackson on Saturday while the right-hander is serving his suspension from the Red Sox brawl; one candidate is RHP Jason Hammel, who gave up two hits and one run in the ninth Sunday, his first appearance in seven days. … The Rays signed three more draft picks, bringing their total to 20: third-round C Jacob Jefferies (UC-Davis), seventh-round OF Jason Corder (Long Beach State) and ninth-round LHP Shawn Smith of Saugus (CA) HS. … Vero Beach DH J.T. Hall was the home run champion at the FSL All-Star Game on Saturday.

Joe Smith can be reached at joesmith@sptimes.com.

Rays' Gross, Upton botch another routine fly 06/15/08 [Last modified: Monday, June 16, 2008 5:09pm]

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