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Rays to have Crawford, Iwamura in lineup

ST. PETERSBURG — The Rays should have both LF Carl Crawford and 2B Akinori Iwamura in the lineup tonight.

With Crawford's four-game suspension ending Tuesday, Iwamura was expected to begin his three-game ban tonight. But in trying to navigate MLB process, and work around the impending due date of SS Jason Bartlett's wife, the Rays said Iwamura will now appeal, which allows him to keep playing until a hearing on June 24 or 25.

RHP Edwin Jackson is likely to do the same, which would allow him to make his next start as scheduled on Saturday.

The Rays are concerned about being without Iwamura and Bartlett, who is expected to miss a game or two for the birth, at the same time. But the strategy also could work against them because if Bartlett's wife doesn't go into labor, she will be induced on June 25, manager Joe Maddon said. (Further complicating things, the player they'd likely call up if Iwamura and Bartlett were both out is Ben Zobrist, and he's on the Triple-A DL with a shoulder problem.)

Jackson was to start his suspension Thursday, after James Shields ends his. But it now looks as if Jackson will pitch Saturday then drop his appeal and take his five-game ban. With Monday's off day, the Rays can get through the stretch without having to use a spot starter.

C.C. READY: Crawford said the side benefit to the suspension was that he got six days off to rest his legs, specifically the right knee soreness he aggravated by playing on the Trop turf. He will, however, be careful about attempting sliding catches on balls hit in front of him. "They feel much better," he said. "I can play defense all day long, just sometimes I want to make those catches that are going to hurt me a little bit."

IN THE HOUSE: Former Rays managers Lou Piniella and Larry Rothschild made their first return appearances to the Trop.

Piniella got a loud ovation when introduced. He was unsure pregame how he'd be received, but having gotten tickets for about three dozen hometown friends and rented a suite for his wife and others, joked: "I left enough tickets so there should be a few cheers anyway."

Rothschild, who lives in Tampa, said returning was a little strange. "It's the first time I've been back, so walking in is a little bit of a different feeling," he said. "It's good to see some people I knew. And it's always nice to get home."

MEDICAL MATTERS: 1B Carlos Pena expects to return before the end of next week's road trip to Miami and Pittsburgh.

Pena said that his fractured left index finger is healing and that he was able to grip and throw a tennis ball and take some "dry" swings (without a ball). He will be reevaluated by the end of the week and hopes to resume full baseball activities shortly after that.

"The way it's feeling it has to be healing nicely," he said. "I'm kind of optimistic that when the doctor sees the thing he's going to be like, 'Hey, you can go.' "

OF Rocco Baldelli, out since spring training with a rare condition that causes muscle fatigue in his legs, came through the first game of his rehab at Class A Vero Beach with no problems and is scheduled to DH tonight.

MISCELLANY: 3B Evan Longoria snapped an 0-for-14 skid with his homer. … Troy Percival collected his 340th career save, one behind Rollie Fingers (341) for ninth all-time. … Three Class A Columbus players were selected for Tuesday's South Atlantic League All-Star Game: OFs Emeel Salem (who is out for the season) and Maiko Loyola, who drew a walk his only time up; and RHP Alex Cobb, who gave up two runs in one inning and took the loss. … Short-season A Hudson Valley lost 13-7 in its season opener. Rookie-level Princeton (W. Va.) lost its opener 6-5 in 13 innings.

Times staff writer Joe Smith contributed to this report.

Rays to have Crawford, Iwamura in lineup 06/17/08 [Last modified: Wednesday, June 18, 2008 7:37am]

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