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AREA FAMILIAR BUT ISN'T HOME, PHILLIES SAY

Playing World Series games in the Tampa Bay area should provide the coziness of home for the Phillies. They spend six weeks a year conducting spring training in Clearwater, should always know where the closest smoothie stand is, who's not serving real grouper. It's not exactly a hostile environment.

SS Jimmy Rollins respectfully disagrees.

"This is not our city, not by any means. Not even close," he said. "We're familiar with this area, so I guess that makes things a little comfortable, but we'll hear a lot of cowbells and you'll know you're in Rays Town, the other bay area."

So he doesn't foresee a caravan of red-clad fans rolling down U.S. 19 for Game 1 on Wednesday?

"No," he laughed. "They already bought all the tickets out here and made sure Clearwater wasn't coming down."

BACKGROUND: The Phillies spent much of their first workout at Tropicana Field on Monday making sure the sky wouldn't fall. Coaches used a pitching machine to fire high popups to infielders and outfielders for almost 45 minutes.

"I think you've got to get used to seeing the ball. I think it's a different color than most (roofs), and the catwalks might make it different, too," said manager Charlie Manuel, who used to hit fungoes to Indians outfielders when he was in that organization. "There's a lot of structure going up in it, so if it's high and lines up in that structure, the frames of it, the beams and stuff, it can get pretty hard to see."

Matt Stairs, who has played 43 games in Tropicana Field with various AL clubs, said the adjustment won't be difficult. His teammates agreed.

"It took a little bit to get used to at first," 1B Ryan Howard said.

HOME SWEET DOME: Manuel, 64, called Tropicana Field "comfortable," and he should know. He spent half of the summer of 2002 attending Rays games after being fired by the Indians.

"I used to love to watch games in this building. Comfortable," he said. "You could sit up there in air conditioning and watch a game."

Times staff writer Eduardo A. Encina contributed to this report.

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