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Tampa Bay Rays, Carl Crawford eager to get first meeting out of the way

PORT CHARLOTTE — The Rays will get their first look at former teammate Carl Crawford as a Red Sox as he is on the travel roster for Thursday's game at Charlotte Sports Park.

"I'm looking forward to seeing him," CF B.J. Upton said. "But wrong uniform."

With four spring and 18 regular-season meetings, both Crawford and the Rays said it was just as well to get it out of the way early.

"It was going to happen eventually," Crawford told the Boston Globe. "I'll go wherever they tell me. I'll be happy to see those guys."

Rays manager Joe Maddon said he looked forward to congratulating Crawford on his seven-year, $142 million deal and conversing with him.

"I have not had the chance in person to tell him how much I appreciate what he had done for us," Maddon said. "I'm looking forward to seeing it. I'm sure that he's going to have a lot of things going on probably with our group as a whole, and maybe the fan base, too. But we play each other so many times, let's just get over it and move on."

ST. PETE BOUND: With their squad split for two games today, the Rays are not sending any 40-man roster players to the exhibition in St. Petersburg against the Netherlands. The biggest names will be 1B Casey Kotchman, OF Justin Ruggiano and SS prospect Tim Beckham, plus former Ray Rocco Baldelli, who will coach first. Part of the issue is an MLB rule requiring permission for rostered players to participate in non-sanctioned exhibitions.

GETTING RELIEF: RHP Brandon Gomes, part of the Jason Bartlett trade with San Diego, and LHP Cesar Cabral, the Rule 5 draft pick from Boston, continue to impress in long-shot bids for bullpen spots.

Gomes worked a 1-2-3 eight-pitch 10th inning, making it four appearances without a hit or walk. Is Maddon impressed? "A lot," he said. "And I really like his makeup, too."

Cabral, who hasn't pitched above Class A, was impressive in a B game last week and worked 12/3 hitless, walkless innings Tuesday.

PITCHING IN: RHP James Shields was relatively pleased with his 31/3-inning, 60-pitch start, settling in a bit after allowing a homer to Rajai Davis on the second of a 25-pitch first inning: "Overall, I did okay." He also picked off Adeiny Hechavarria, on his fourth attempt, to end the second. … RHP Jeremy Hellickson looked good in another batting practice session, with no issues from time missed due to his hamstring strain, and is set to make his exhibition debut Friday. … LHP J.P. Howell, coming off shoulder surgery, impressed Maddon with his 35-pitch bullpen session, throwing his fastball, curve and changeup and showing off his refined, more balanced delivery.

MEDICAL MATTERS: INF Elliot Johnson returned to action (0-for-1, 2 BBs, 4 plays at short) after being out nine days with a left quad strain. … INF/OF Ben Zobrist (right ankle) is due to return today, and SS Reid Brignac (groin tightness) is close.

GAME DETAILS: Down 2-0 early, the Rays (3-7-1) rallied, tying it in the ninth on a two-out triple by Robinson Chirinos (scoring Nevin Ashley) then winning on a two-out single by Justin Ruggiano, scoring Chris Carter, who led off with a double. … Dan Johnson's seventh-inning homer was first ruled in play (leading to him getting tagged out) then reversed to a homer call after the umpires huddled.

MISCELLANY: LF Johnny Damon took some batting practice cuts right-handed: "My swing's definitely better from that side." … Evan Longoria did a photo shoot for Men's Health magazine.

Tampa Bay Rays, Carl Crawford eager to get first meeting out of the way 03/08/11 [Last modified: Tuesday, March 8, 2011 9:16pm]

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