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Rays say they've adjusted to playing at Disney

Nearly ready: Catcher Dioner Navarro, out with cuts on his hand, is likely to return to the Rays today after one more rehab outing.

JAMES BORCHUCK | Times

Nearly ready: Catcher Dioner Navarro, out with cuts on his hand, is likely to return to the Rays today after one more rehab outing.

Aside from having to spend an extra couple of nights in a hotel, Rays players say playing three home games at Disney isn't that big a deal.

"You're trying to get the fan base up, trying to get people interested in the Rays, so when you look at it in that way, it's a good idea," LF Carl Crawford said.

The Rays had a good experience last year, sweeping Texas, and team officials said the overall project was a success despite crowds of 8,443, 8,839 and 9,635.

The Rays use the home clubhouse at Champion Stadium, where the Braves have spring training, and will have most, if not all, of their usual equipment and accessories, including their full clubhouse staff and regular bat boys. They're even bringing their own Pepsi-brand drinks, because Disney facilities have a deal with Coca-Cola.

Otherwise, it is much like a standard road trip, with hotel rooms, meal money and buses to and from the ballpark, though leaving earlier than usual because the home team takes batting practice first.

"Everything was fine last year; it was just something different," Crawford said. "We did it once, and we know how to deal with it now, so it should be routine."

Manager Joe Maddon admitted he was concerned last year about playing regular-season games in a spring training facility but said it couldn't have turned out much better.

"The general ambience, everybody on both sides behind the scenes did such a great job of presenting it — the Disney people, our people — so it was a really well-done event," Maddon said. "So any sort of negative thoughts I had going into last year's series I think are pretty much buried based on how it came about. I thought it was really good."

CATCHING ON: Assuming all is well after his final rehab appearance Monday night for Class A Vero, C Dioner Navarro will rejoin the Rays today, and veteran C Mike DiFelice will be designated for assignment.

DiFelice, 38, made a good impression during his two weeks with the Rays, and they'd surely like to get him through waivers and have him at Triple-A Durham in the event he's needed again later in the season.

Although nothing will be official until today, DiFelice sensed the move was coming and said he enjoyed the experience but hopes to stay in the big leagues with some team,

"I think I showed I'm a major-league catcher who can play at this level regardless of age or whatever," he said. "Hopefully I impacted my teammates in a positive way, especially the pitchers."

Navarro went 0-for-3 as Vero's DH.

MISCELLANY: New 1B/DH Dan Johnson, who got one at-bat before being let go by Oakland, will wear No. 26. … Since his long-term contract was announced, 3B Evan Longoria is 1-for-10. … An Inside the Rays feature on LHP Trever Miller and his family debuts on FSN after tonight's game. … RHP Al Reyes is playing catch with no problems with his right shoulder and is on schedule to return when eligible April 30, Maddon said.

Rays say they've adjusted to playing at Disney 04/21/08 [Last modified: Wednesday, April 23, 2008 11:06am]

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