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Rays still don't know ALDS opponent

DETROIT — The Rays were looking for some answers in Sunday's regular-season finale, but they headed home after the 8-7 11-inning win without the biggest: whom they play when the division series opens at Tropicana Field.

The AL Central race between the Twins and the White Sox won't be decided until at least today, and possibly Tuesday, leaving the 97-win Rays as the most interested observers.

"Interesting," manager Joe Maddon said.

With the Twins leading by a half-game, the White Sox today will make up a rained-out game against the Tigers in Chicago.

If the Sox lose, the Twins win the division and face the Rays. But if the Sox win, they'll host the Twins on Tuesday in a one-game playoff.

With intricate three-pronged scouting packages (in-person, video, data) prepared on both teams, the Rays will watch, and wait, figuring a Tuesday showdown may be to their advantage.

"We are going to sit back and react to whatever happens," executive vice president Andrew Friedman said. "We have scouted both teams extensively. There are some specific things that we'll need to wait to do until we know our opponent, but that is a reasonable tradeoff for the extra rest."

As well as the extra effort the Sox and Twins could expend, and extra pitchers they may use, which could impact the freshness of their bullpen and plans for the rotation.

"Theoretically, you would think it would benefit us," Maddon said. "But I don't really try to analyze that too deeply. Until you see them on the field, you have no idea."

True enough, because the other theory is that whichever team wins could come to St. Petersburg on a roll. "You never know how that is going to work," Ben Zobrist said, "because sometimes it gets a team going a little bit if they win."

With a meeting planned this afternoon to shape the 25-man playoffs roster, the Rays should be closer to some answers based on Sunday's results.

Troy Percival in the bullpen?

Maddon said he did "overall pretty well" and the "only" question is his health. Percival, who received shots to ease a sore back, looked good and felt fine during an impressive 10-pitch 1-2-3 seventh and said he would be healthy enough to contribute.

"I think I will be; I do," he said. "They've got a decision to make. I did what I have to do.

"Since my first epidural shot I've pitched effectively, I think more effectively as time's gone by. So it's up to them whether it's effective enough for them and what they have to do. I don't think I'm quite where I was at the beginning of the season; I do think I'm making strides toward getting there."

David Price in the bullpen?

The Rays had Price warm up more quickly Sunday than in his previous relief outings, cutting his usual 36-pitch routine to 19-20, which is key if he is going to be used in tight situations.

Price came in with two on and one out in the fourth and got out of it, striking out Magglio Ordonez and getting Miguel Cabrera on a hard liner (with help from third baseman Evan Longoria), then allowed just a two-out single in the fifth. But he used 31 pitches against six batters.

"Very functional, obviously, the velocity, the aggressive nature," Maddon said. "The biggest concern, or the thing that I did see, was the fastball command. … (It) wasn't what you're looking for overall."

Edwin Jackson in the bullpen?

If Andy Sonnanstine is the fourth starter, Jackson would be on the roster only if the Rays felt comfortable using him in relief.

He had mixed results Sunday in his first career save situation, allowing a two-run tying homer to Ordonez in the ninth, then working through the 10th and ending up with the win.

"I was curious to see E.J. in that role," Maddon said, adding that he was "really impressed" with how he handled Ordonez the second time up (flyout to left).

"Those are all wonderful, difficult questions, great problems to have," Maddon said. "We're going to try to make the right decisions."

Marc Topkin can be reached at topkin@sptimes.com.

ALDS schedule
The Twins and White Sox are battling for the AL Central title and might need a playoff Tuesday to decide it.

All games on TBS

Vs. Twins OR White Sox
Thurs.at Tampa Bay, 2:30
Fridayat Tampa Bay, 6
Oct. 5at opponent, TBA
Oct. 6*at opponent, TBA
Oct. 8*at Tampa Bay, TBA
* if necessary


Brewers clinch; Chisox play on

Milwaukee beats out the Mets for the NL wild card, while in the AL wins by Chicago and Minnesota force the White Sox to play a makeup game against the Tigers today. A Chicago victory would mean a one-game playoff with the Twins for the AL Central title. 5-6C

AL Central

Rec. GB GL

Twins 88-74— 0

White Sox 87-741/21

TV info: Tigers at White Sox, 2 p.m., ESPN2

Rays still don't know ALDS opponent 09/28/08 [Last modified: Monday, September 29, 2008 8:37pm]

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