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The Tampa Bay Rays' upcoming home series against the Philadelphia Phillies doesn't seem to have anyone excited

NEW YORK — The Phillies are coming back to the Trop starting Tuesday, but it doesn't seem the Rays or their fans are too excited about the World Series rematch.

Except, maybe, for Wednesday starter Matt Garza, who said, "I owe them some payback."

Advance ticket sales are slow enough that the Rays are saying seats are available in all categories. There's a chance the stadium might be only half-filled.

The Rays have already faced the Phillies in spring training and two April exhibitions in Philadelphia. And manager Joe Maddon said they haven't targeted these three games as any more important than any other series (rude treatment by Philly fans aside), though he's surprised, as are several Rays players, that the fans don't.

"We've even asked among ourselves, 'Who do we play when we get home?' We've forgotten. Okay, it's going to be the Phillies and the Marlins, cool," he said. "It's not that really big of a deal except that you just want to beat them obviously.

"I don't even know how the fans are going to react. I heard there's not been that great of an advance sale on this, which is kind of surprising. But from our perspective, it's another game we've got to win."

UPTON ON THE WAY UP: CF B.J. Upton had a career-high-matching four hits, four RBIs and three runs, and the hint of a smile on his face.

Upton continues to show signs of coming out of his months-long slump that marred his return from offseason shoulder surgery. With his 4-for-6 day Sunday, including a massive homer into the second deck, he is hitting .400 (16-for-40) over his last nine games and has his average up to .240, highest since April 22.

"Like I've said, it's going to take time," Upton said. "It's starting to come around slowly but surely. I've just got to stick with it and keep doing what I'm doing."

And the Rays are willing to wait because of the dynamics of having Upton and Carl Crawford starting things off.

"These two guys at the top getting on on a consistent basis really permits us to score more runs obviously," Maddon said.

REHAB REPORT: LHP Scott Kazmir will have a pitch limit of 85, "give or take a couple," when he starts tonight for Triple-A Durham in his second rehab outing. The Rays will re-evaluate Kazmir, who is on the disabled list with a right quad strain and reworking his mechanics, after tonight. They could decide to bring him back by the end of the week or have him make another rehab start.

RHP Chad Bradford (elbow surgery) will make his first back-to-back appearances for Durham on Tuesday and Wednesday, then another Saturday, with the possibility he could join the Rays in Toronto on June 29.

STARRY-EYED: Maddon met with MLB official Phyllis Merhige to go over his responsibilities in picking seven of the last eight members of the AL All-Star team for the July 14 game.

After the fans elect eight starters and the players vote in eight reserves and eight pitchers (five starters and three relievers), Maddon gets to fill out the 32-man roster and name the five players on the Internet ballot for the 32nd spot. But he does so under several constraints: that every team is represented and that he has 12 pitchers.

Merhige told Maddon what he needs to start thinking about, and he welcomed her input because "I haven't thought about it at all, so it's good to be directed a bit," he said.

"Obviously I'm a novice right here, and of course the game means something. As we get closer I'll start fine-tuning a bit more, to me it's still light years away. And a lot of the questions are answered for you by other sources."

MISCELLANY: The game was delayed 14 minutes in the second inning when plate umpire Jerry Crawford, a Tierra Verde resident, had to leave due to lower back pain. Then it was delayed 34 minutes in the seventh for rain. … The Rays' 29-20 record since April 30 is the best in the AL; the Angels are 27-20 after Sunday's loss.

The Tampa Bay Rays' upcoming home series against the Philadelphia Phillies doesn't seem to have anyone excited 06/21/09 [Last modified: Monday, June 22, 2009 5:56am]
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