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Rays playoff roles up in air for Price, Percival

Carl Crawford, watching from the dugout during Tuesday’s doubleheader, says he felt good a day after hitting balls off a tee and expected to be able to play during the postseason. The Rays remain cautious.

BRIAN CASSELLA | Times

Carl Crawford, watching from the dugout during Tuesday’s doubleheader, says he felt good a day after hitting balls off a tee and expected to be able to play during the postseason. The Rays remain cautious.

BALTIMORE — How often RHP Troy Percival and LHP David Price can pitch will be key issues this week as the Rays decide whether one or both will pitch for them in the opening round of the playoffs.

Percival will rejoin the team today after getting a second round of epidural injections in his back and should be ready to resume pitching Thursday.

"We just have to make sure he is healthy," manager Joe Maddon said. "The big thing with the role that he would play would be that he'd be able to come back in back-to-back days. … A big part of his ability to help us would be the two days in a row thing."

After an eight-day break, Percival, 39, pitched three times in a five-game span, including Saturday and Sunday, allowing two hits and three walks in facing 13 batters. In 19 second-half games, Percival has a 6.89 ERA, allowing 13 hits and 15 walks in 152/3 innings.

Price, 23, was impressive Monday in his first major-league start, throwing 88 pitches. His role for the playoffs would be in the bullpen, and the Rays need to know how often he can be available and be sure that the transition to warming up in a hurry won't be an issue.

Price probably won't be used again until Friday, so the only barometer would be to bring him back in Sunday's regular-season finale and see how he handles that.

"There's no way we want to injure this guy because of … what happens after he throws," Maddon said. "We have to be very judicious and prudent how we do this. So let's see if we can get him lit up again on Friday and see what happens after that."

Postseason rosters don't have to be set until 10 a.m. the day of the first game, which will be Oct. 1 or 2.

CRAWFORD NEARLY READY: OF Carl Crawford said he expects to be ready to resume playing regularly next week after testing his surgically repaired right hand on Monday by hitting balls off a tee.

"I hope I'm playing next week; now if they're going to let me play, that's a different story," Crawford said. "Definitely in my mind I want to be in the lineup by next week. If I'm able to go out there and do the stuff I did today then I should be able to get in the lineup, whether it's good or bad."

The Rays weren't expecting Crawford, who had surgery Aug. 14, to be ready to hit for several more weeks, though they had discussed using him to play defense and pinch run. Maddon said they would need more information from medical personnel to know how realistic his hoped-for accelerated return really is.

"I'm glad he feels good," Maddon said. "It's good for him and it's good for us."

Crawford said he will repeat the drills today, which also include bunting, and hopes to at least take batting practice before the end of the regular season on Sunday.

"Just me being able to swing the bat with no pain is such a big step for me," Crawford said. "I'm happy with that."

PITCHING IN: Add U.S. Ryder Cup captain Paul Azinger, a longtime Bradenton resident, to the Rays Nation. Azinger told reporters he was too drained from the weekend to do the late-night talk shows, but he did have one appearance in mind: "I want to throw out the first pitch at a Rays game."

MISCELLANY: Tuesday's doubleheader was the Rays' 14th and their first sweep. They'd split seven and been swept six times. … The Rays beat the Orioles for the 11th straight and 14th overall time this season, both team records. … Principal owner Stuart Sternberg not only wasn't surprised at brisk sales for the first two playoff games, he said he would have been "ridiculously disappointed" otherwise. … With Thursday's game in Detroit starting at 1:05 due to a Senior Days promotion, starter Scott Kazmir will fly in ahead of the team.

Rays playoff roles up in air for Price, Percival 09/23/08 [Last modified: Wednesday, September 24, 2008 3:32pm]
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