04/04/07 3:00 PM ET
Notes: Rays expect to run
Elite speed throughout lineup adds dimension to offense
By Bill Chastain / MLB.com
Reigning American League stolen-base king Carl Crawford swiped the team's first base of the season after a single in the first inning. He will set the tone for the club.
"Carl really makes it happen," Rays manager Joe Maddon said. "Carl puts us over the top. He's in that elite category of all-time basestealers."
Crawford hit in the leadoff spot on Monday, while the speedy Elijah Dukes and B.J. Upton hit in the eighth and ninth spots, respectively, offering an injection of quickness before Crawford's spot. Clearly, Crawford likes the possibilities of such a lineup.
"We're going to do what we have to do to win games," Crawford said, "because we're not really driving the ball like other teams. So we've got to go to that speed game."
Crawford said he can sense the pressure that the Rays' speed puts on the defense.
"We already saw [the pressure] in the first game, [with] a bunch of movement going on, where you have to be perfect on throws," Crawford said. "I'm pretty sure it's uncomfortable for pitchers and catchers."
Crawford talks to Upton much about basestealing.
"I think he's going to be a guy who is going to steal 50-plus bags one day," said Crawford, who noted that he'd like to steal 60 bases this season.
Handicapping the youngsters, Crawford said that Upton could steal 50, Dukes 30 and Delmon Young 25.
"Hopefully, I can set the tone and they can try to keep up with me," Crawford said.
Upton studies Crawford and hopes to better learn about which counts he can run on and the pitchers he can steal against. Like Crawford, Upton thinks that the Rays' speed adds a unique element to the offense.
"When you've got that much speed, you can change a ballgame," Upton said. "[Opposing teams] know when I get on or [Crawford] gets on [that] we're looking to go. It makes it better for the hitter, too, when the pitcher is worried about us."
Baldelli and Navarro could sit: Rocco Baldelli, who is nursing a sore right hamstring, and Dioner Navarro, who is coming back from a strained left hamstring, could sit out of Thursday night's series finale with the Yankees if the weather is as cold as some forecasts suggest. Temperatures in New York could dip as low as 35 degrees.
Maddon said that he will talk to both players on Thursday before making a decision.
Baldelli was used as the DH on Monday and gave the team a scare when he began to hop along after popping out in the third inning. Baldelli had just a cramp in his right leg and continued playing, even stealing a base later.
Navarro caught the entire game, but he grounded into two double plays.
Altering the rotation: Right-hander James Shields will now start Friday night's home opener against the Blue Jays at Tropicana Field, as the entire Rays rotation has been pushed back due to the rainout. Left-hander Casey Fossum will start on Saturday night, and fellow lefty Scott Kazmir will pitch on Sunday afternoon. Right-hander Edwin Jackson will step in to make his first start of the season on Monday night at Texas.
Minors get under way: Thursday will see the season openers for Rays Minor League affiliates at Triple-A Durham, Double-A Montgomery, Class A Vero Beach and Class A Columbus. Right-hander Jason Hammel will start for Durham, with left-hander Chris Sheldon going for Montgomery, lefty Jake McGee for Vero Beach and Wade Townsend for Columbus. The remainder of the Bulls' rotation will proceed as follows: left-hander J.P. Howell, right-hander Jeff Niemann, right-hander Andrew Sonnanstine and right-hander Mitch Talbot.
Up next: After Wednesday's rainout, the Rays will wrap up their series against the Yankees with Thursday's 7:05 p.m. ET contest at Yankee Stadium. Right-hander Jae Seo will start for the Rays, and he will be opposed by Yankees left-hander Andy Pettitte.
Bill Chastain is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.