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Tampa Bay Rays taking a closer look at new AstroTurf in Toronto

TORONTO — The Rays were curious enough about the new AstroTurf, and serious enough about a potential change at Tropicana Field, that they brought head groundskeeper Dan Moeller to take a closer look at the Rogers Centre.

The Jays are the first team to use the new version of AstroTurf, which is similar in design to the FieldTurf now at the Trop.

"We're still fact-finding," Moeller said. "We're going to see if we want to make a change. A lot of it depends on what our players say."

The initial report from infield coach Tom Foley, and confirmed by several players during the pregame workouts, was that the new turf was "bouncier and faster" than what was at the Trop.

Moeller was checking out technical details, such as how the blades were anchored, the amount of "spray" from the fill and degree of "snaking" of rolling balls, and how the thinner base could make it tougher on the players physically.

Manager Joe Maddon was interested to see how it played. "It's very green," he said. "I just heard it's softer and spongier."

If the Rays don't make the switch to AstroTurf, which has a sponsorship deal with MLB, they are planning to keep the FieldTurf they have, which the Times reported in early May. Interestingly, 3B Evan Longoria recently signed on as a spokesman for FieldTurf and taped a commercial.

TEXAS TWO-STEP: SS Jason Bartlett plans to resume light throwing and hitting today with hopes of returning to the lineup Friday in Texas.

Bartlett said his right hamstring, which he strained mildly Saturday, continues to improve as he has been wearing a wrap on it, but he isn't ready to test it. "I still feel it a little bit," he said. "There's no reason to go out and try to do anything right now. … It is day to day, and as long and I'm progressing, the plan is Texas."

I AM THIRD: Longoria prefers hitting No. 3 rather than cleanup, and it shows: He went into play Monday with a .429 average and 1.286 OPS hitting third, .307 and .914 hitting fourth.

"I do feel most comfortable there, and I've told Joe that," Longoria said. "It's just one of those things — he loves to mix up the lineup, and we all understand. … I feel a little more comfortable there, and I like hitting in the first inning; that's the biggest thing."

JOYCE REPORT: The Rays decided OF Matt Joyce's right elbow was healthy enough for him to be reinstated from the disabled list and optioned to Triple-A Durham, where he will play, or at least DH, regularly.

"I talked to him on the phone personally (Sunday), wanted to let him know we're really pleased with what he's doing and just basically continue to get ready,"

Maddon said. But there was concerning news, as Maddon said Joyce — despite more than two months of rehab and rest — is not able to throw at full force.

"He's still not 100 percent with his throwing yet, but it's getting better," Maddon said. "He's very close to be able to throw normally. … He's not really been able to fully extend and throw like he can, but it's getting better.''

C Kelly Shoppach (right knee surgery) started what is scheduled to be a weeklong rehab with Durham on Monday night, catching five innings and going 1-for-3.

MISCELLANY: The Jays hit their MLB-leading 89th homer. … With Bartlett out, Maddon said tonight's leadoff hitter "could be a surprise." … LHP Alex Torres left Double-A Montgomery's game in the third for precautionary reasons after tweaking his knee on a bunt play. … Top prospect Durham RHP Jeremy Hellickson (8-2, 2.49) won his second International League pitcher of the week award. … In his first game for Triple-A Fresno, ex-Ray Pat Burrell, as the DH, went 2-for-5 with a homer.

Tampa Bay Rays taking a closer look at new AstroTurf in Toronto 05/31/10 [Last modified: Tuesday, June 1, 2010 1:06am]
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