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Rays try to maintain rotation, try to stay busy

BALTIMORE — All things considered, the Rays would rather have played Thursday.

They had a day-and-a-half off between Monday's opener and the second game, they were still stinging over the frustrating 9-6 loss Wednesday night and they didn't even get to leave Baltimore early, forced to hang around the clubhouse until 9:30 p.m. waiting for their chartered flight to be readied.

Plus, there's rain forecast all today in New York, and more Saturday.

"You don't want any more days off right now," manager Joe Maddon said. "When you're at home, it's not as bad, but when you're on the road, you're stuck in the hotel all the time trying to figure out what to do with yourself all day."

The Rays are trying to keep some sense of order to their rotation, getting work for Nos. 3-5 starters Andy Sonnanstine, Edwin Jackson and Jason Hammel, while keeping James Shields and Matt Garza on somewhat regular schedules.

The latest plan is to have Sonnanstine make his season debut tonight and Jackson on Saturday. Shields starts Sunday and Hammel Monday, and Garza in Tuesday's home opener.

They wanted to keep Shields and Garza together, but changed plans so Hammel wouldn't go too long without pitching. Doing it that way does create a nice spot to drop in ace left-hander Scott Kazmir when he returns, between their two top right-handers.

"Stay tuned," Maddon said. "(Today) if it rains, we'll come up with something else."

No makeup date for Thursday's game, which was called off around 6, was announced. The Rays return to Baltimore April 29-May 1 and Sept. 22-24, so they could play a doubleheader then, and the teams have common off-days on April 21, June 16 and 23, and Aug. 21.

PITCHING IN: Reliever Grant Balfour, who lost out on the final bullpen slot to Scott Dohmann, accepted an outright assignment to Triple-A Durham. LHP Kurt Birkins, on the disabled list with an inflamed elbow nerve, threw a 45-pitch bullpen session in St. Petersburg.

ROUGH RELIEF: After watching video, Al Reyes said his rough outing Wednesday — allowing four runs in the eighth inning — was the result of rushing his delivery, causing his location to be off and his fastball to end up over the plate.

"That doesn't really happen to me that much," Reyes, 37, said. "I don't know why I was trying to rush; I've been around a long time."

Trying to protect a 6-5 lead with the Rays six outs from their second 2-0 start in team history, Reyes got in trouble with a four-pitch leadoff walk. He ended up allowing four runs on three hits — one on a ground ball shortstop Jason Bartlett stopped but couldn't make a play on — and another walk.

"On the surface it looks like a horrible outing, but it really wasn't," Maddon said. "He really wasn't as bad as it seemed; I just think the (leadoff) walk was the uncharacteristic part of the inning."

MISCELLANY: Maddon had planned to give Willy Aybar, who was sidelined in spring training by a sore left hamstring, Thursday off after "watching him jog" Wednesday, with Eric Hinske starting at third. ... RHP Jeff Niemann allowed four hits and one earned run in five innings in Durham's 3-2 opening loss. … LHP Jake McGee struck out seven and allowed three hits in six innings for Double-A Montgomery

Rays try to maintain rotation, try to stay busy 04/03/08 [Last modified: Monday, April 7, 2008 3:02pm]

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