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Tampa Bay Rays would like fans to not help their opponents

ST. PETERSBURG — Manager Joe Maddon says the Rays love their fans, appreciate their support and realize how important they are to their success.

But Maddon also wants to educate them after one fan drew some ire in Sunday's game for giving the Red Sox a second chance in the ninth inning.

With the Rays up 5-3 with two outs, a fan a few rows back on the third-base side reached up for a potential game-ending pop fly by Jacoby Ellsbury that was seemingly destined for 3B Evan Longoria's outstretched glove. But the fan caught the ball.

Ellsbury ended up flying out to right. But Longoria was "a little upset," giving the fan a stern stare and yelling some "choice words," though he said afterward he wasn't directing them specifically at the fan, just the situation.

"I was a little bit chapped," RHP Troy Percival said. "You got (Dustin) Pedroia on deck, in a two-run ball game. …But you know what, fans aren't thinking about that at the time, they're thinking about the $12 ball that's coming down."

Maddon pointed out that if a player reaches into the stands, and a fan catches it, there would be no interference call.

"I'd like the fan on the third-base side to understand you don't do those things," he said. "Really, our fans need to know that, in a game like that, in your ballpark, you let our fielders field that ball."

Said Longoria: "He knew he was wrong. And I think some of the fans were giving him some stuff after. They did their job."

STRONG SHIELDS: RHP James Shields went the first month without his "good stuff," and his best pitch, his changeup, wasn't where he wanted it. But he got it back on track Sunday, when he gave up two runs in 71/3 innings, getting into a groove after a tough first inning. "When my changeup is there for the first time all season long, my stuff's there," he said. "My changeup's there; everything comes right off of that."

SPECIAL DAY: Mitchell High senior LHP Patrick Schuster's whirlwind month had another high point when he played catch with his baseball idol, Rays LHP Scott Kazmir, before throwing out the ceremonial first pitch. Schuster, who threw four straight no-hitters, impressed Kazmir with his maturity and "nasty" movement on his pitches. Kazmir showed him some grips and joked that Schuster "gave me a few tips." The two signed autographs near the Rays bullpen, with Schuster signing four balls for former pitcher and TBS broadcaster David Wells.

"This is definitely the way to end the streak," Schuster said.

Kazmir said it was special because he has been in Schuster's shoes and "knows exactly what he's going through." Schuster has to decide whether to pitch for the University of Florida or go pro, with Kazmir telling him to be "100 percent" sure, "don't have any regrets" and "take your time."

BACK ON TRACK: Kazmir said there's still work to do in getting over the mechanical issues he has dealt with since last season. Maddon said he had a good conversation with Kazmir on Friday, "trying to help him think his way through the whole thing."

JOIN THE FAMILY: RF Gabe Gross and his wife, Kelly, had their first baby Sunday, a daughter, Allie Lee, who weighed 7 pounds, 5 ounces and was born at 11:39 a.m. in Alabama. Maddon said he expects Gross to be back for Tuesday's game.

MISCELLANY: LF Carl Crawford is hitting .435 in his past 12 games (20-for-46), hiking his average 93 points to .317. … LHP Brian Shouse's 45-pitch outing Saturday was his most since June 15, 2005, when he threw 42. … C Dioner Navarro will appear today at Coachman Fundamental Middle School (2235 Coachman Road, Clearwater) from 11:45 a.m.-12:45 p.m. as part of Raytheon's Math Moves U program.

Joe Smith can be reached at joesmith@sptimes.com.

Tampa Bay Rays would like fans to not help their opponents 05/03/09 [Last modified: Monday, May 4, 2009 2:26pm]
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