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Tampa Bay Rays starter Matt Garza says Boston Red Sox can't be counted out of playoff race

Matt Garza, who starts Saturday, says that you can’t ever count Boston out.

JAMES BORCHUCK | Times

Matt Garza, who starts Saturday, says that you can’t ever count Boston out.

ANAHEIM, Calif. — RHP Matt Garza knows better than to write off the Red Sox even though the Rays have a sizable 51/2-game lead in the wild-card race with a little more than a month to play.

But he's not beyond giving the Sox something to think about heading into the weekend series at the Trop that could either pretty much end (if the Rays sweep) or ignite (if the Sox sweep) the race.

"We know the pressure is not on us, it's on them. And they know it and we know it," Garza said. "They're the ones that made all the offseason moves. And we're just going and going and going. So we're just going to keep going and keep playing our game and at the end of this three-game series, we'll see where we're at."

And Garza, who starts Saturday, is braced for battle.

"I know what they're coming with," Garza said, "and they're coming with a lot to prove; everybody saying they're out of fit, they're too far back. It's the Red Sox. You can't ever count them out. There's guys putting up career years like (3B Adrian) Beltre and Big Papi (David Ortiz) is having a resurrection. So they're still dangerous. You can't count those guys out until that 162nd game, or when it says you've clinched and you've got that x or y by your name that you relax. But right now, no shot."

The Sox altered their rotation for the series, and stiffness in Daisuke Matsuzaka's back could end up being a pain for the Rays.

Rather than opening the series Friday against Matsuzaka (who is 2-5, 4.34 against them), the Rays now will face LHP Jon Lester (7-3, 4.18 vs. them, 3-0, 3.60 at the Trop). Lester was to pitch the nightcap of Wednesday's doubleheader against the Mariners but was replaced by Tim Wakefield.

MR. VERSATILITY: C John Jaso has already made a tremendous impression on manager Joe Maddon with his instincts and baserunning skills.

Now he's showing that he's versatile, too.

Jaso said yes when the Rays unexpectedly asked him to move to first base during some wholesale fifth-inning substitutions Wednesday and handled himself well, though without any tough plays. He played 14 games at first early in his minor-league career (2004 at short-season Class A Hudson Valley) and has taken ground balls and throws there during batting practice.

Jaso has spent most of his pro career at catcher and DH but said he likes the idea of playing first as well. "Having that option to where I can do that I think is a good thing," he said. "I want to be able to do that, too."

WADIN' IN: Throwing 85 pitches and working into the sixth inning of Tuesday's 10-3 win in his first start off the DL was one test for RHP Wade Davis. The next was how he, and specifically his previously strained right shoulder, felt after playing catch on Wednesday.

"Everything felt good, a lot better than I thought it was going to be," Davis said. "After the game I was thinking (Wednesday) was going to be really important, and everything was good."

FIRST STEPS: RHP Jeremy Hellickson, sent to the Class A Stone Crabs to learn the routine of pitching out of the bullpen, is scheduled for his first relief outing tonight in Port Charlotte, as part of a 5:05 p.m. doubleheader. He could pitch a second time and is expected to rejoin the Rays on Sept. 1.

MINOR MATTERS: RHP Alex Cobb struck out 13 in six innings, including seven in a row, for Double-A Montgomery in a 5-3 loss. … LHP Jake McGee, pitching his way into the September call-up conversation, extended his scoreless streak at Triple-A Durham to 102/3 innings (over seven games), and with 19 strikeouts. … Just-signed top draft picks Josh Sale and Drew Vettleson were added to the Port Charlotte-based GCL team roster but are unlikely to make their pro debuts before the season ends Saturday.

MISCELLANY: Carlos Peña was the DH (and Dan Johnson played first) as Maddon saw a chance for Peña to get mostly off his previously injured right foot. "Just my being cautious," Maddon said … The Rays were seeking their first sweep in Anaheim.

Tampa Bay Rays starter Matt Garza says Boston Red Sox can't be counted out of playoff race 08/25/10 [Last modified: Wednesday, August 25, 2010 11:51pm]

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