Make us your home page

Get the quickest, smartest news, analysis and photos from the Bucs game emailed to you shortly after the final whistle.

(View our Privacy Policy)


Rays hope sellout in home opener is first of many

NEW YORK — The Rays were eager Monday afternoon to announce that tonight's home opener was sold out, even if there were a limited number of obstructed-view, scattered single and handicapped accessible seats remaining. They noted not only that it was their third straight home-opening sellout but that at 27 hours until first pitch, it was the earliest they'd sold out since the 1998 inaugural.

But what would be really big news is if tonight's crowd of around 36,048 isn't their only big deal.

"I think people come in with different expectations," principal owner Stuart Sternberg said. "Generally, in years past they've come and they want to be there for opening game. Now I really do believe they want to be there for the opening game of what could be the beginning of something pretty special. This is really a complete new beginning for us. And it looks like, fortunately, we are hitting the ground running."

The Rays built considerable momentum during the offseason as they changed their name, uniforms and colors and seem to have extended that with a major-league best-matching 18-8 spring and a 3-3 start to the season.

"I think the fans of Tampa Bay are wonderful fans," manager Joe Maddon said. "We have to do our part to get them out there on a consistent basis by playing better baseball. To this point we've done that. We've got to keep up our end of the deal, and I think the folks will show up."

The Rays also hope bigger — and louder — crowds make Tropicana Field more of a homefield advantage, having gone 37-44 there last year and 41-40 in Maddon's first season.

"It's got to become more of a homecourt advantage," Maddon said. "It kind of had been in the past when you played right around .500 ball there, but I want it to be even more than that. And the fans play a big part in that."

ZOBRIST SET BACK: INF Ben Zobrist's return to the majors appears delayed until May after he had to have pins inserted in his still unhealed fractured left thumb Monday. The pins will be in for at least two weeks, then he has to be cleared to resume baseball activities and needs to play in some minor-league games.

FLOYD SORE: DH Cliff Floyd was scratched from Monday's lineup due to right knee soreness but was on-deck to pinch-hit in the ninth. His availability will be determined day to day.

KAZ ON THE HILL: Ace LHP Scott Kazmir will pitch at the Trop today, but rather than face the Mariners he will throw 60-75 pitches in a 3:45 p.m. simulated game that is essentially glorified batting practice. LHP Kurt Birkins (inflamed elbow nerve) will also throw; Willy Aybar, Nathan Haynes and Elliot Johnson will hit. It's an important step in Kazmir's recovery from the Feb. 26 elbow strain: If all goes well he could advance to the first of three extended spring/minor-league games, seeking a late April return.

COOL GARZA: Fans and team officials may be excited for tonight's home opener, but Rays starter Matt Garza insists he won't be too revved up. "U went through my opener,'' he said. "It's a big deal for the fans, that's awesome for them, but it's just another game."

MISCELLANY: First-pitch temperature was 48 degrees. & The Mariners shuffled their pitching again to start the series with lefties Erik Bedard and Jarrod Washburn. & After an 0-for-14 start, 3B prospect Evan Longoria had three hits Monday for Triple-A Durham. & Sunday's telecast drew a 3.4 rating (averaging 60,652 TV households), which FSN said was a 79 percent increase over its first 2007 game, which was on a Monday afternoon. & C Josh Paul won't head to Durham; he signed a minor-league deal with the Astros. ... Yankees SS Derek Jeter left the game with strained left quad; the Yanks hope he's back in a week.

Rays hope sellout in home opener is first of many 04/07/08 [Last modified: Tuesday, April 8, 2008 1:41pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Bucs' Vernon Hargreaves: 'I'm not making any plays'


    TAMPA — Eli Manning gathered his receivers together on the sideline during the Giants' Week 4 game against the Bucs and told them he planned to target the weakest link of the secondary all afternoon.

    Patriots receiver Chris Hogan gets position in front of Bucs cornerback Vernon Hargreaves for a 5-yard touchdown pass in New England’s win on Oct. 5.
  2. Lightning's J.T. Brown to stop anthem protest, focus on community involvement

    Lightning Strikes

    COLUMBUS, Ohio — Lightning wing J.T. Brown will no longer raise his first as a protest during the national anthem before games.

    J.T. Brown says he will work more with the Tampa police and groups that serve at-risk young people.
  3. Signs point to Jameis Winston dressing vs. Bills


    TAMPA — The Bucs didn't sign another quarterback Wednesday, which would suggest they are confident that Jameis Winston can be active as a backup to Ryan Fitzpatrick on Sunday at Buffalo if he doesn't start.

  4. FSU doesn't feel need for ongoing reminder of last year's beatdown at Louisville


    Of course Florida State remembers what happened against Louisville last year. The 63-20 loss was one of the worst defeats in Seminoles history.

    Louisville's Lamar Jackson looks back at the action from the sidelines during the first half of an NCAA college football game against Murray State, Saturday, Sept. 30, 2017, in Louisville, Ky. (AP Photo/Timothy D. Easley)
  5. Goodell: NFL not changing its national anthem policy


    NEW YORK — In the face of fan unrest and accusations from the president about the league being unpatriotic, the NFL is not changing its national anthem policy to require players to stand.

    NFL commissioner Roger Goodell speaks during a news conference, Wednesday in New York. [AP Photo/Julie Jacobson]