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Tuesday, Jun 19, 2018
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Tampa Bay Rays

Crawford In, Jackson Out; Shields To Open Playoffs

ST. PETERSBURG - Carl Crawford is in, Edwin Jackson likely is out and James Shields will get the ball to open the playoffs. Two days before the Rays' first playoff game, some questions finally had answers while others were being held back by the team. Though executive vice president Andrew Friedman characterized the selection process as "virtually 100 percent" complete, the Rays officially revealed only their starting rotation for the Division Series on Tuesday. The identity and order of the Rays' starters for the first three games of the series - Shields in Thursday's opener, followed by Scott Kazmir and Matt Garza - weren't particularly surprising. The real suspense lay in who would get the nod for the Game 4 start, and now we know those honors will go to Andy Sonnanstine over Jackson. In fact, Jackson said he had been told he will not be on the Division Series roster at all. The Rays wouldn't confirm Jackson was out, saying they were holding back to sort through some possible contingencies on the eve of the playoff opener, but the 14-game winner is not expecting to be active.
"It's one of those cases that, like I've said before earlier in the season, you can't really worry about what you can't control," Jackson said. "You just have to take it as-is and roll with what happens next when it happens." Jonny Gomes also said he was told he would not be active for the first round, but would travel with the team. One player who will be on the roster, in a remarkable turnaround from expectations a week ago, is Crawford. He went 2-for-3 with a triple and a single Tuesday in an Instructional League game at Tropicana Field, showing enough that Manager Joe Maddon said Crawford will be starting in left field - but probably not batting in his customary second spot in the order - for Thursday's playoff opener. Nonetheless, the return of the two-time All-Star after an absence of more than six weeks following hand surgery should be quite a boost. "You send the lineup card over to the other side and it has his name on it, there's a lot more angst created as opposed to when it's not," Maddon said. "The guys that have participated in left field have done a tremendous job for us - every one of them. But, after all, this is an All-Star outfielder. There's a lot of different facets he brings to us offensively as well as defensively that you can't get out of normal baseball players." SONNY DAYS: The Rays went with Sonnanstine (13-9, 4.38) over Jackson (14-11, 4.42) for the final rotation spot based on Sonnanstine's consistency in throwing strikes, according to Maddon. "I also believe that right now Sonny's pitching as well as I've seen him all year," Maddon said. "But I could say the same thing, almost, about Jack. I know he's had a couple tough early parts of the game recently, but believe me, he's had a spectacular year for us also. It was a difficult decision." Sonnanstine acknowledged how tough the call must have been, but said he was pleased to have a chance at another start. "I did my best to make every single start this year and felt like I helped the team out a lot," he said. "I'm really excited to pitch in the postseason." LEADING OFF: Shields has been known to insist that each start that comes along carries as much weight as any other, but he didn't bother with that pretense when talking about throwing the first postseason pitch in Rays history. "I'm going to be honest with you, it's not going to be a like a regular game," he said. "It's a playoff atmosphere. I've never been there before. There are a bunch of guys on our team that have. They've told me what it's all about, and I'm looking forward to it. I'm going to take on the challenge. This is the kind of game I want to be in." ON THE AIR: With television broadcasts turned over to TBS for the ALDS, the Rays' announcing team of Dewayne Staats, Joe Magrane and Todd Kalas will be left to host an hourlong pregame and half-hour postgame show on FSN Florida for home games in the first round. Red Sox TV announcer Don Orsillo will be the play-by-play man for the Rays' series on TBS, working with color analyst Harold Reynolds and reporter Marc Fein. NOTEWORTHY: MLB announced that 30-year veteran Joe West will lead the umpiring crew assigned to the Rays' series. He will be joined by Gary Darling, Jeff Kellogg, CB Bucknor, Eric Cooper and Ron Kulpa. ... RHP Chad Bradford and LHP J.P. Howell threw live batting practice during Tuesday's workout. ... IF Willy Aybar was back in action Tuesday after he missed Monday's pep rally; Maddon said Aybar was suffering from a migraine. Marc Lancaster, Tony Fabrizio
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