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Hendrickson workout shortened by injury

What started as slight irritation a few weeks ago turned into at least minor frustration Sunday as left-hander Mark Hendrickson had to cut short a pitching session because of what was described as a strain of the ilio-tibial band in his right thigh.

Hendrickson, the Devil Rays top winner the past two seasons, said he stopped throwing because he couldn't properly follow through on his pitches.

"The fact that it was affecting the finishing of my pitches today, there was no point in pushing it," he said. "It's a little frustrating for myself because I don't know exactly what it is. It's hard to say the feel. It's the very last twist of a pitcher after you land. It feels like it wants to give way a little bit."

The IT band runs down the outside of the thigh and can lead to painful irritation, particularly in the knee. Hendrickson said he first noticed the irritation a few weeks ago when he was lifting weights and throwing and thought then it was a cramp.

The Rays said the injury was not serious and that treatment was for precautionary reasons, but Hendrickson was noncommittal when asked whether he'd be back on the mound for his next scheduled session on Tuesday.

"I couldn't follow through on my pitches so we cut it short. It's still early; something maybe flared up," he said. "I don't think it's anything major, but better to be safe than sorry with six weeks till the opener."

IT HAPPENS: The new marketing slogan - "We Come to Play" - was quietly revealed over the weekend, showing up on billboards and pocket schedules.

But unlike previous years, such as when they used Hit Show and Watch It Happen, the Rays plan to play down the slogan and play up their individual players. They will also promote the April 10 home opener as the reopening of Tropicana Field.

FAN FEST FOLO: The Rays didn't count visitors but said they were pleased with the turnout at Saturday's Fan Fest, which was reduced to one day from two.

"It was a great crowd," team president Matt Silverman said. "The parking lots were full, there were lines at almost every booth and there were lots of kids sliding into home plate."

It was also the first day of single-game ticket sales and while declining to disclose numbers, Silverman said: "We sold significantly more than we did on the first day last year." Hot sellers, as expected, were games with the Braves, Red Sox and Yankees. He also said season-ticket sales (in terms of full-season equivalents) matched 2005 totals.

Another interesting attraction was Mickey Carroll, an 86-year-old who played a Munchkin in the original 1939 Wizard of Oz.

MISCELLANY: Starter Doug Waechter was enthused by a slight change suggested by pitching coach Mike Butcher that made his delivery "more rhythmic and less robotic." Catchers worked again on tag plays and caught popups hit by coaches "Digalo" Bobby Ramos and Jamie Nelson. "They're the perfect guys to throw out there in that situation because they played most of their careers popping up on the infield," manager Joe Maddon cracked. With the first full-squad workout on Wednesday, seven players have not reported: Sean Burroughs, Aubrey Huff, Travis Lee, Darnell McDonald, Luis Ordaz, Kevin Witt and Delmon Young.


DAMIAN CRISTODERO, Times staff writers