ST. PETERSBURG — The Rays tonight open the first of their two annual series against the Marlins who, geographically and in MLB's view, are supposed to be their "natural" rivals.
But there doesn't seem to be any doubt who their true rivals are — at least this season — given what took place last week in Boston.
And, based on what Boston's Jonathan Papelbon said on his weekly Comcast Sportsnet TV segment Wednesday night, what will continue when the Sox come to Tropicana Field on June 30 through July 2.
"In my opinion, it is a bunch of bull what they did," Papelbon said. "All I got to say is what comes around goes around, man. Payback's a b----, I'll tell you what. In my opinion, and the way I feel right now, this thing isn't all settled and done.
"We still got to play them a few more times. And I know when we go into Tropicana things will be a little different than when we went in there last time."
The Rays swept the Red Sox April 25-27, then were swept in Boston last week. Papelbon continued their diatribe against Rays SS Jason Bartlett for starting the controversy in blocking second base, saying, "some people, they do things without thinking."
And then he had some nice things to say about the Rays staying in the AL East race:
"Those guys have a lot of talent over there," he said. "Obviously, as you can see, it's a war when we go play those guys."
KAZ COMMENTS: MLB officials are aware of the comments LHP Scott Kazmir made about umpire Derryl Cousins, and any discipline will be at the discretion of Bob Watson. Detroit's Gary Sheffield was fined an undisclosed amount in July for comments he made about umpires.
BULLPEN SHUFFLE: The Rays are expected to activate closer Troy Percival for tonight's game, with RHPs Grant Balfour and Gary Glover appearing the most probable candidates to go. Both are out of options and would have to be first offered on waivers before they could be sent to the minors, unless the Rays work a trade or make a DL move.
LINEUP, TOO: LF Carl Crawford starts his four-game suspension tonight. Candidates to play left in his place are Eric Hinske, Justin Ruggiano and Jonny Gomes, who Wednesday completed his five-game suspension. The Rays are also short a pitcher, with James Shields serving his six-game suspension.
FAMILIAR FACES: The Marlins come in with a slew of ex-Rays and Tampa Bay area products, including St. Petersburg favorite son Doug Waechter, who will make his first appearance since June 4, 2006, at the Trop.
After recovering from October 2006 shoulder surgery, Waechter signed with the Marlins this year.
"It just didn't work out the way I wanted it work out (with the Rays)," he said. "It's almost like I got a second life again."
Another is INF Jorge Cantu, who didn't want to say much when asked Thursday in Miami about coming back — "I'm happy with this team, period" — but has let his bat talk, with six homers in his last six games (14 overall) and a nine-game hitting streak.
MISCELLANY: The Rays have or are close to deals with six of their top 10 draft picks: No. 3 C Jake Jefferies , No. 5 1B Mike Sheridan, No. 6 RHP Shane Dyer, No. 7 OF Jason Corder, No. 9 LHP Shawn Smith and No. 10 2B Matthew Hall. … Tickets remain available for all three Cubs games, but large crowds are expected, so the Rays advise advance purchases.
Times staff writer Joe Smith contributed to this report.