Duncan stays put on Opening Day roster

Rays outfielder was packed, ready to leave when he received the call

Duncan stays put on Opening Day roster

ST. PETERSBURG -- Shelley Duncan received the good news on Sunday afternoon that he would be on the Rays' Opening Day roster since Luke Scott will begin the season on the disabled list with a strained right calf.

For Duncan, the news couldn't have come at a better time, as he explained.

"I was about 30 minutes from leaving the house in Port Charlotte, we had the car all packed up and getting ready to go," Duncan said. "The good thing is we couldn't leave right after the workout [Sunday] because the dogs were at Camp Bow Wow. And you can't pick them up on Sundays until 4 o'clock there. We had to wait. So luckily we weren't in Georgia or something. So we were on standby for that reason, and got the phone call and made the trip 10 hours shorter."

Duncan's dogs, Scrappy and Tuerto, are both "little mutts," according to their owner.

"One I pulled off the street in Puerto Rico and the other one, a little street dog, I got in Tucson at the pound," Duncan said.

Once Duncan got the news, he and his family turned toward St. Petersburg rather than Triple-A Durham.

"The dogs saved us a long drive," Duncan said.

Understanding the implications of Scott's injury, Duncan knew he had a chance to be the player the team picked to fill the gap.

"There was a couple of us down [at Minor League camp], we kind of knew the situation from the outskirts, but we didn't know what all was going on on the inside," Duncan said. "Being in this game long enough, you understand that a lot of curveballs can be thrown at you at the last minute."

Duncan reported being "pleasantly surprised" while having empathy for all of the others involved.

"I feel bad for Luke and I feel bad for some of the other guys, but me and the wife are very happy," Duncan said.

" ... I have been on the other side of it a couple of times. It is nice, but you also understand all the different things that go on in this game, so it's very important to stay humble and just focus day to day."

Rays manager Joe Maddon spoke about the decision to go with Duncan rather than some of the club's other options.

"Just looking at what we may need, with the right-handed bat versus the left-handed pitcher, the power -- he can put the ball in the gap or in the seats," Maddon said. "I think he's become a better first baseman also, when you want to give James [Loney] a day off, it's possible. ... There's a lot of things he can do, plus I just think he's really good on the team, too."

In six Major League seasons, Duncan owns a .229 average with 41 home runs and 138 RBIs. This will be the fourth Opening Day roster he has been on, including the Yankees in 2008 and the Indians in '11 and '12.

"I think Opening Day for everybody, you get the butterflies, you just hope they don't overwhelm you like they do your first," Duncan said.

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