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Percival goes home for Series

October 23, 2008|Bill Shaikin | Shaikin is a Times staff writer.

ST. PETERSBURG, FLA. — As his team took the field for the World Series on Wednesday, Troy Percival was back home in Riverside.

The Tampa Bay Rays did not include Percival on their World Series roster, although Manager Joe Maddon said Percival was working out at home and could be activated in case of injury to another pitcher.

The Rays signed Percival, the closer for the Angels' 2002 World Series championship team, as a veteran closer as well as a mentor for their young pitching staff. Percival had 28 saves for the Rays -- but one after Aug. 13, in a season in which he battled knee, back and hamstring injuries.

Maddon said he granted Percival permission to attend to personal matters. Maddon would not elaborate, other than to say there were no health issues for Percival or his family.

"I'd love to have him here," Maddon said. "He's such a big part of getting to this particular point. If he were active, he'd be here. To be here and not play, and to neglect what he has to do at home, would not be right for him."

Powering down

The Rays got their first look at Brad Lidge in Game 1 -- but not at his fastball. The Philadelphia Phillies' closer earned the save -- he's 47 for 47 this season -- by retiring the heart of the Tampa Bay lineup in order.

"If he's got the good slider going," Phillies pitching coach Rich Dubee said, "a lot of times he'll stick with it."

Lidge threw 15 pitches, one fastball. Carlos Pena and Evan Longoria each struck out without seeing a fastball.

"I think it's a big advantage," Lidge said. "If you can have a night where you stick with one pitch, that's good. But I feel confident in both right now."

Power to spare

The Rays' Eric Hinske became the first major league player to hit at least 20 home runs in the regular season yet fail to make his team's World Series roster, according to STATS LLC. That does not include injured players.

Hinske hit .247 with 20 homers, third on the team behind Pena and Longoria. He played extensively in the Rays' outfield when Carl Crawford was injured, but Crawford has returned to play left field, and the Rays decided they did not need the extra left-handed bat that Hinske would have provided.

The Rays' right fielder in Game 1: Ben Zobrist, a shortstop by trade. He played two games at that position during the regular season and none before this season, in a professional career that started in 2004.

On notice

The Rays are trying to become the first team in any of the four major North American pro sports to finish with the worst record in the league one year and win the title the next.

With the Rays in this Series, the only clubs yet to appear in one are the Seattle Mariners, Texas Rangers and Washington Nationals, formerly the Montreal Expos.

Consumer discretion

The Rays sold an average of 22,370 tickets during the regular season, a lower number than every major league club except the Pittsburgh Pirates, Kansas City Royals, Oakland Athletics and Florida Marlins.

"As far as the crowd goes, I don't blame them," Tampa Bay pitcher James Shields said. "You watch the team lose for 10 straight years and, as a fan, I wouldn't want to come to every single game, either."


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