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Rays likely to start Kazmir in World Series opener

Adding it up: Rays reliever Grant Balfour chats with his girlfriend as he tries to figure out how many World Series tickets to get her and other relatives and friends.

SCOTT KEELER | Times

Adding it up: Rays reliever Grant Balfour chats with his girlfriend as he tries to figure out how many World Series tickets to get her and other relatives and friends.

ST. PETERSBURG — Official word won't come until today, but the Rays are leaning toward lining up their World Series rotation with LHP Scott Kazmir starting Wednesday's opener.

RHP James Shields, who worked the openers of the first two rounds, would start Game 2, with RHP Matt Garza, the ALCS MVP, working Game 3 in Philadelphia and RHP Andy Sonnanstine Game 4.

Shields pitched Saturday in ALCS Game 6, and the Rays wouldn't want to start him Wednesday on three days' rest rather than the normal four. Kazmir would start Wednesday with an extra day's rest, and Shields would be on his normal day to pitch Game 2 on Thursday. Garza would have the benefit of an extra day's rest for his Game 3 start Saturday. Sonnanstine, who last pitched in Boston on Oct. 14, will have gone 11 days between starts.

The Rays arranged to have Kazmir pitch preceding a day off in the first two playoff rounds in case they needed to go deep into their bullpen, but they appear to be less concerned after his strong ALCS Game 5 outing. And setting up the rotation this way has Shields, who is much better at home, pitching Games 2 and 6 at Tropicana Field.

ROSTER SHUFFLE: Team officials will talk extensively today about the composition of their roster, revisiting the debate over whether it is better to have 14 position players and 11 pitchers, as they did for the ALCS, or go back to 15 and 10, as they did for the ALDS, with OF Eric Hinske the likely addition.

What makes this situation different is that the three middle games are played under NL rules, which means more pinch-hitters are used and pitchers are taken out of games more often.

"We're going have to go through all the different kind of situations and figure out where we feel most comfortable because I don't think there's a cut-and-dried right answer," executive VP Andrew Friedman said.

On the side of sticking with 14 players is that reserves such as Willy Aybar and Ben Zobrist are switch-hitters who can play multiple positions.

The Rays will consider two potential injury-related moves. There's a decent chance that backup C Shawn Riggans, who had right knee surgery in September, could be activated and replace Michel Hernandez, who didn't play in the first two rounds. Riggans' last hurdle is to show he can move well enough to block pitches, and he will be tested today.

Less likely is that RHP Troy Percival, who had yet to return from his home in California, would rejoin the bullpen, though he could be added if there was an injury during the Series.

BALL GAME: There seems to be some question over possession of the ball from the final out of Sunday's pennant-clinching game.

2B Akinori Iwamura, who caught Jed Lowrie's grounder and tagged second, told Japanese media after the game he had the ball and hoped to hang on to it.

"I have already hidden it somewhere," Iwamura said. "As soon as I caught the ground ball, I thought I should have stepped on second base by myself because I might keep the ball. I know the ball is so special, so the team might want it back."

But Rays PR director Rick Vaughn said the team has the ball, that a security guard handed it to him after the pileup on the field and it has been authenticated and is in the clubhouse.

MISCELLANY: Team president Matt Silverman said ticket prices are expected to rise next season: "We haven't had a ticket increase in three years, and we already have one of the most affordable tickets, if not the most affordable in all of baseball." … OF Carl Crawford will be named Principal for the Day this afternoon at John Hopkins Middle School, which is near the Trop, and talk to students about the Reviving Baseball in Inner Cities program.

Times staff writer Joe Smith contributed to this report.

Rays likely to start Kazmir in World Series opener 10/20/08 [Last modified: Tuesday, October 21, 2008 2:47pm]
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