ST. PETERSBURG — Navigating the blur of a six-month baseball season, players, coaches and managers often lose track of the calendar. But, by the end of today's matinee, if not before, the Rays will realize that this week they have Sunday off.
"It would have been nice if the NFL was in season right now," manager Joe Maddon said. "It'll be strange, but you know what it's like in baseball. Monday? Wednesday? Who knows what day of the week it is?"
The Rays agreed to change their schedule at some inconvenience and a significant loss of revenue to accommodate the Sunday night welcome party for the Republican National Convention.
With Tropicana Field essentially off-limits immediately after today's game, travel director Jeff Ziegler had to make adjustments to the team's usual routine. Rather than meeting and parking their cars at the stadium, the Rays instead will drive on their own to the airport. And with airspace over St. Petersburg-Clearwater International Airport limited, they instead will fly out of a private terminal at Tampa International.
By giving up a Sunday home game, in which they've averaged 25,950, and instead playing Thursday, when they drew 11,613, the Rays figured to lose several hundred thousand dollars in ticket, concession and parking revenue.
Before this season, when the A's and Mariners were off the first Sunday of the regular season (April 8) after previously opening play in Japan, the last time a team had a scheduled Sunday off was Sept. 10, 1995, when the Cardinals and Padres couldn't play because of a conflict with the Rams, who hosted the Saints. Oddly, the same teams also had been off Sunday, Aug. 13, due to a similar conflict with a Chargers preseason game.
There will be additional security at today's game.
CROWD CONTROL: The Rays dropped back to last (30th) in the majors in attendance, the only team averaging fewer than 20,000 (19,953 through Friday).
PITCHING IN: RHP Jeff Niemann starts for Triple-A Durham today in what is scheduled as his last rehab appearance to complete recovery from his mid-May broken leg. But it doesn't sound like he will be reclaiming a regular spot in the rotation, at least not initially, given how well RHP Alex Cobb has pitched in his absence.
Maddon suggested Niemann, who probably won't be activated until the Sept. 1 roster expansion, is more likely to be used as a spot starter, allowing the Rays to arrange extra days off for Cobb and LHP Matt Moore, and slightly limiting their innings.
PROSPECT EXPLAINS: INF Ryan Brett, the most highly regarded of the three Rays minor-leaguers suspended 50 games for failing a drug test, claimed the infraction was the result of an "unintentional and unfortunate one-time event." He thought he was taking an energy pill.
According to an email from agent Nik Lubisich, Brett, the Rays' third-round pick in 2010, "asserted these test results could only be the result of a single incident in which the evening before this random drug test he took an energy pill that was described to him as caffeine-like, but which apparently turned out to be a common form of attention-deficit disorder (ADD) medication, Adderall."
Adderall is a prescription stimulant. MLB announced Thursday that Brett and pitchers Charles Cononie and Justin Woodall were suspended after testing positive for methamphetamine and an amphetamine.
Brett wanted to clarify the situation, Lubisich wrote, "after MLB's statement was picked up by media outlets as insinuating that his test results must have been from recreational "meth" use, which he vehemently denies having ever done or even seen."