Notes: Hammel ready for Yanks

Notes: Hammel ready for Yanks

NEW YORK -- Jason Hammel was named the Rays' Wednesday night starter, setting the stage for some interesting emotions for the right-hander, given the fact he grew up in the state of Washington watching the Mariners when Alex Rodriguez played shortstop for the team.

"I watched him on TV every day," Hammel said. "Now I'll be on the other side -- 60 feet, six inches away."

Hammel took the early tour of Yankee Stadium on Tuesday and said he wouldn't be human if he didn't feel a few butterflies Wednesday night.

"Definitely my skin might crawl a little bit," Hammel said. "But it's still baseball. ... It will be interesting to see A-Rod walk up there -- and [Derek] Jeter."

Hammel, who is 0-2 with a 5.61 ERA, was asked if having his first win come at Yankee Stadium would make it even sweeter.

"I'd have stories for my grandchildren later in life, you know," Hammel said.

Hammel is one of several Rays players in uniform at Yankee Stadium for the first time, a list that includes Delmon Young, Juan Salas, Shawn Riggans, Ben Zobrist and Brian Stokes.

Rays and Montgomery: The Rays and the Montgomery Biscuits agreed on a two-year extension of their current player development contract, ensuring the Minor League franchise will remain a Rays affiliate in the Double-A Southern League through the 2008 season.

"We're very proud to extend our agreement with the Montgomery Biscuits," said Mitch Lukevics, Rays director of Minor League operations. "We've had a wonderful relationship and we look forward to continued success there."

The Biscuits and Rays brought baseball back to Montgomery in 2004 after a 24-year absence. Montgomery began playing in the Southern League Championship Series on Tuesday night, looking for the city's first league championship since 1977.

Spring Training update: On Tuesday, the Charlotte County board of commissioners voted unanimously (4-0) to approve the agreement between Charlotte County and the Devil Rays, allowing the Rays to hold Spring Training at the Charlotte Sports Park beginning in 2009. The board also voted to add a fifth cent to the county's tourism tax that will be used along with funding from the Rays and the state to cover the cost of the $27.2 million renovations to Charlotte Sports Park, the spring home of the Texas Rangers from 1987 to 2002.

Spreading the love: Rocco Baldelli's 10th home run of the season Sunday against the A's gave the Rays 10 players with 10-plus home runs on the season, making them the eighth club all-time to have 10-plus players with 10-plus home runs. The others are: Detroit (2004), 11 players; Baltimore (1998), 10; New York Yankees (1998), 10; Detroit, (1999), 10; Cincinnati, (1999) 10; Baltimore (2000), 10; Cincinnati (2000), 10; and Texas (2004), 10.

The Rays entered Tuesday night's contest against the Yankees with 171 home runs this season, further extending their club record; the previous Rays record for a season was 162 in 2000.

On the road again: The Rays began Tuesday with a 2-20 record on the road in the second half and a 19-50 road record for the season.

The disparity has been a constant source of dialogue for manager Joe Maddon. But one possible cause dispelled by the Rays manager was the possibility that his team has enjoyed too much of a night life on the road.

"That's not an issue," Maddon said. "I don't think that's the issue. It's a matter of young guys, inexperienced players playing in a difficult setting and learning how to cope with it and win. And we're going to do that."

Maddon would like to see the Rays wrap up the season with better fortunes on the road with the idea the good fortune might spill over into the 2007 season.

"I think it would help, I really do," Maddon said. "I'd like to see us get it done so that we know that we can do it. The Yankees are the last team we're playing on the road that is still in the hunt, right? ... Yeah, [in] this Yankees series it would be nice to go out there and do some nice work against the Yankees -- just to get us to the next level."

More Crawford feats: Carl Crawford entered Tuesday's action one steal short of his third 50-steal season. Since 1900, 28 players have had three or more 50-steal seasons, but only seven have had three 50-plus seasons by age 25: Rickey Henderson (5), Tim Raines (5), Cesar Cedeno (5), Ty Cobb (4), Vince Coleman (3), Eddie Collins (3), and Bert Campaneris (3).

In addition, Crawford is vying for his third American League stolen base crown. Only 25 players alltime have won three or more league stolen base crowns and only eight players have won three by age 25: Henderson (5), Luis Aparicio (4), Raines (4), Cobb (3), George Case (3), Ben Chapman (3), Campaneris (3) and Coleman (3).

Coming up: The Rays will play the second game of their three-game series against the Yankees in a 7:05 p.m. ET contest Wednesday night at Yankee Stadium. Hammel (0-2, 5.61 ERA) will start for the Rays and will be opposed by right-hander Cory Lidle (11-10, 4.75 ERA).

Bill Chastain is a reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.