It's almost as if the Devil Rays took the "artificial" out of their turf, so glowing have been the reviews of Tropicana Field's new synthetic playing surface, known as FieldTurf.
When the Angels arrived for a three-game series Friday, the first thing players and coaches did when they took the field for pregame workouts was check out the turf, which looks and feels like grass and, from all accounts, plays like grass.
"This stuff is awesome," Manager Mike Scioscia said. "I was walking on it, and it was like, 'Wow.' It's so far ahead of any other artificial turf it isn't funny."
FieldTurf is softer than traditional artificial turf because it is laid over a dirt-like substance composed of cryogenically ground crumbs of old tires, used Nike shoes--is there anything this company won't attach its name to?--and silica sand. The blades of grass are fibers made of a blend of polyethylene and polypropylene.
The University of Nebraska installed FieldTurf on its football playing field in 1999, and the Cornhuskers' injury total was reduced by 40.
"No question, it's easier on the body," said Angel left fielder Darin Erstad, who played football at Nebraska. "I think every stadium with AstroTurf will eventually go to this."
Angel bench Coach Joe Maddon, who has served two stints as the team's interim manager the past four seasons, was admitted to and released from a St. Petersburg, Fla., hospital Friday after complaining of shortness of breath, light-headedness and tingling in his arm.
Tests revealed no abnormalities in Maddon's heart, but an X-ray did indicate Maddon may have a bone spur in his neck. Maddon returned to Tropicana Field in time for Friday night's game but watched from the clubhouse.
"The doctors didn't really know what's wrong, I just knew I didn't feel right," said Maddon, who began experiencing symptoms Thursday night in Toronto. "They couldn't put their finger on anything. I don't know if it's a fatigue thing or not."
Maddon has been on a high-protein, low-carbohydrate diet and has lost about 20 pounds in the past year, but he ate pasta before and after Friday night's game in an effort to increase energy. He hopes to return to the bench for this afternoon's game.
Erstad was slow to get up after diving into shallow left-center for Kevin Stocker's bloop in fourth inning Friday, but he remained in the game. Erstad, who landed hard on his right arm as the ball squirted out of his glove, sat out Monday's game after tweaking his shoulder making a diving catch in Chicago Sunday. . . . In his second rehabilitation start for Class-A Lake Elsinore, Angel right-hander Tim Belcher gave up one single in five innings against San Bernardino Thursday night. Belcher, who had elbow surgery last winter, struck out four and retired 12 consecutive batters at one point. He'll probably need at least two more minor league starts before being considered for the Angel rotation.
(1-1, 3.48 ERA)
(0-1, 6.88 ERA)
Tropicana Field, St. Petersburg, Fla., 10:15 a.m. PDT
TV--Channel 9. Radio--KLAC (570), XPRS (1090).
* Update--The slight tear in Ortiz's shoulder has not been a problem so far, but the young right-hander has struggled a bit with his control, walking seven in 10 1/3 innings of his first two starts. The Devil Rays, who had only one stolen base in their first 15 games, stole three bases against the Angels Friday night, primarily because Angel pitchers didn't pay much attention to them on the basepaths. The Angels had given up only three stolen bases in 16 games entering Friday night.