This weekend isn't quite the storybook return to Tropicana Field that Rocco Baldelli probably deserves. If he was able to play, he likely would have had both the Rays and Red Sox fans in attendance cheering for him in his first game at the Trop in a gray visitor's uniform.
A hamstring injury that landed Baldelli on the 15-day disabled list last week put that welcome on hold, but there were plenty of smiles behind the scenes Thursday.
"Everywhere I go in the stadium I'm going to be seeing people I know and people that I've been waiting to say hello to," he said. "I got to do that a little bit in spring training, but I knew it'd be a little different coming in here and checking it out from this side. This is the first time I've ever been in here the visitors' clubhouse. I've never set foot in this room right here."
Other than that, he was comfortable. He still has his place in St. Pete Beach and got to sleep in his own bed after the Red Sox arrived from Cleveland early Thursday morning. And he plans to catch up with some of his friends at various points this weekend.
Baldelli went out to do some running on the field around midafternoon but said he didn't think to check out the 2008 championship banners that now hang over left field.
"It'll be the first thing I look at when I go out for BP," he said. "I have a lot of great memories from this place. People can say what they want about the Trop, but this building was good to me."
Andy Sonnanstine is an intelligent guy, but he doesn't usually have much to say. Every once in a while, though, he'll come up with a little something. Talking Thursday about a chat he had the other day with Manager Joe Maddon, Sonnanstine summed up his struggles (0-3, 7.78 ERA) like this:
"We both feel that physically, the way I'm throwing the ball is probably the best I've thrown it in the past two years," he said. "And it's quite possibly the worst results I've had in those two years."
The pitcher and his manager are of the opinion that Sonnanstine's problem is rooted almost entirely in poor location rather than anything mechanical. If he can refine his command and keep the same stuff he has, they believe he'll turn it around.
"I'm not stressed out," Sonnanstine said. "I'm confident in what I do and confident about all my pitches, so I'm going to go out there and keep that confidence on the mound."
RHP Chad Bradford (elbow surgery) threw well in a bullpen session Thursday and is scheduled to throw live batting practice Sunday and Tuesday. If all goes well, he'll begin throwing in games after that. ... C Shawn Riggans (shoulder tendinitis) said he is throwing "pain-free" and expects to go out on a rehab assignment early next week. He said a return May 10 in Boston has been discussed. ... SS Jason Bartlett, who left Wednesday's game early with tightness in his left hamstring, felt fine and was in the starting lineup Thursday.
The Rays will debut their navy blue alternate jerseys tonight. ... RHP Jeff Niemann received the Al Lopez Award, which goes to the top Rays rookie in spring training, before Thursday's game. ... LPGA standout Brittany Lincicome, a Seminole native, delivered the ceremonial first pitch. ... Longtime Rays broadcaster Joe Magrane, now with MLB Network, was on hand.