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Tampa Bay Rays slugger Carlos Peña struggles in opener, striking out four times

Rays slugger Carlos Peña returns to the dugout after striking out in the sixth inning against Red Sox starter Josh Beckett.

JAMES BORCHUCK | Times

Rays slugger Carlos Peña returns to the dugout after striking out in the sixth inning against Red Sox starter Josh Beckett.

BOSTON — Carlos Peña has had days like this before.

Six, actually, including two last season. "Believe me," he said. "It has happened to me before."

But striking out four times on opening day. Twice in clutch situations, as the tying run. Against the rival Red Sox. And in Boston, where he grew up nearby.

"That wasn't fun for me at all," Peña said. "Today seemed like if I took a pitch, it was right on the corner and it was a strike. And when I swing at one, it would have been a ball. So I was caught in between those two."

A four-strikeout day is called a Golden Sombrero, but it's not something the always fashionable Peña was happy about wearing.

"I just try to make it as insignificant as possible," he said.

Ring toss: DH Pat Burrell was playing coy but still planning on being in Philadelphia today to receive his Phillies World Series ring in a pregame celebration. "I hope to; I'll let you know (today)," he said — then returning by private plane to Boston in time for tonight's game.

"That's a once-in-a-lifetime event for him, and if he really wants to go, I'm not going to say you can't go," Rays manager Joe Maddon said. "As long as we can fit it all in, I'm good."

Rockin' Rocco: Ex-Ray Rocco Baldelli says he's going to try to act as if it's any other game tonight when he is expected to make his Red Sox debut against his former mates.

But Scott Kazmir, who will be on the mound, said it's going to be anything but normal.

"I think it's going to be a little bit weird," he said. "Just by me being with the Rays since '04, seeing him with the uniform on, always a Ray, and the support and how popular he was in Tampa. It's going to be a little different with him on the other side and me facing him."

Maddon said the Rays will produce a standard scouting report on Baldelli but will mold their strategy based on "personal observation" and acknowledged the familiarity should be to their advantage.

Lining up: The Rays have tried to address their struggles against left-handed starters with a series of moves, and they'll get a test tonight against Jon Lester. There will be several changes to the lineup, with Jason Bartlett leading off (and Akinori Iwamura dropping to ninth), Dioner Navarro moving up to sixth, with Ben Zobrist seventh and Gabe Kapler, who hit just .150 this spring, eighth. And Maddon decided to have Kapler play center and Zobrist right.

Gabe of the day: Kapler, who played parts of four seasons with the Sox, including the 2004 championship campaign, received a loud ovation upon introduction. "The people here have been unbelievably kind to me over the years, and I'm humbled," he said.

Miscellany: The Rays are 6-6 in season openers. … Sen. Edward Kennedy threw a short ceremonial first pitch — actually two, after bouncing the first one. … Senior adviser Don Zimmer officially started his 61st season in baseball and said: "This is an important one, because I'm alive." … Principal owner Stuart Sternberg wasn't at the game but is expected at Monday's home opener.

Tampa Bay Rays slugger Carlos Peña struggles in opener, striking out four times 04/07/09 [Last modified: Tuesday, April 6, 2010 1:59pm]

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