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Tampa Bay Rays' Carl Crawford hits inside-the-park home run

CHICAGO — Carl Crawford figured he had a home run all along. He just didn't expect to work that hard for it.

Crawford thought his fourth-inning drive was going over the centerfield wall, but it instead hit high off it and caromed across the outfield.

"When I saw it bounce off the wall I knew I had better turn on the speed a little bit,'' he said. "I saw (third-base coach Tom) Foley waving me so I just tried to run as fast as I could to get there.''

Crawford made it, logging the third inside-the-park homer of his career, tying for most among active players with Bobby Abreu, Ken Griffey Jr., Jimmy Rollins and ex-Ray Randy Winn. It was only the third inside-the-parker in the 19-season history of U.S. Cellular Field.

KAZ QUESTIONABLE: LHP Scott Kazmir said he was "good to go" for Thursday's start after throwing a bullpen session Monday, but manager Joe Maddon wasn't as sure and said a final decision won't be made until they see how he feels today.

Kazmir acknowledged his forearm felt "just tight right now" and that he wasn't able to get full extension during his usual between-starts workout, his first since leaving Saturday's game with cramping in the arm he and the team attributed to dehydration. "I'm fine," he said.

Maddon said Kazmir "was fine" and completed the full session but "not 100 percent like he can, not 100 percent ready yet, but he feels like he will be."

Maddon said there was no contingency plan yet. If they have to shuffle the rotation, they could pitch Matt Garza on short rest or call up Wade Davis.

In a related note: The Rays are already pondering what to do to accommodate the potential return of LHP Brian Shouse as soon as Monday.

LHP Randy Choate has pitched well in his place as the entire bullpen has been on a roll. And with J.P. Howell being used like a closer, Maddon seems to like the idea of having two situational lefties.

INF Joe Dillon seems like a spare part because he rarely plays, but he has been working behind the plate to become a potential third catcher, which Maddon considers appealing because it allows him to more freely pinch-hit for Dioner Navarro or Michel Hernandez.

"All these different little nuances need to be discussed," Maddon said. "I don't know what we're going to do yet."

Shouse worked one inning, allowing four hits, for Class A Charlotte on Monday; he is to get two days off then pitch in back-to-back games and could return then.

Right on: With Clayton Richard the toughest on left-handed hitters among Chicago's three consecutive lefty starters, look for LF Carl Crawford and 1B Carlos Peña to be out of the lineup tonight. … Overall, the Rays are 15-19 against lefties (compared with 36-22 vs. righties).

Tall order: The good news is that RHP Jeff Niemann goes into tonight's start coming off a dominant performance, a complete-game shutout of the A's. The bad news is that start was July 10, meaning he'll pitch tonight on 10 days rest.

"You just try to keep it as normal as you can, play catch as much as you can in between and go out there and try to do what you've been doing," he said.

SMALL CONSOLATION: The night wasn't all bad for Jason Bartlett, who finally got enough plate appearances to requalify for the leaderboard, and now ranks third in the AL with a .344 average.

Miscellany: Gametime was an unseasonably cool 68 degrees. … Willy Aybar got another start at second based on research and data from the home office suggesting he matched up well with starter Gavin Floyd, but he didn't get a hit until the ninth and made two errors. With a half-price Monday promotion, there was a sellout of 39,024. … OF Gabe Gross's Sunday walk was his sixth in 30 career bases-loaded plate appearances, the highest average (1 in 5) among active players with at least four. … After sweeping Kansas City, the Rays have five wins when trailing after seven innings; they had nine last season. … C Shawn Riggans (right shoulder) was behind the plate for Class A Charlotte on Monday continuing his rehab.

Tampa Bay Rays' Carl Crawford hits inside-the-park home run 07/20/09 [Last modified: Tuesday, July 21, 2009 9:53am]
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