NEW YORK -- The Rays will hand over the keys to Tropicana Field to the Orioles for their coming weekend series, which had to be relocated from Oriole Park due to the ongoing unrest and protests in Baltimore stemming from the death of Freddie Gray, a 25-year-old man who died on April 19 due to injuries allegedly suffered while in police custody.
Major League Baseball announced the change Tuesday afternoon. The Orioles will be considered, and will play as, the home team during the relocated games. Game times will be 7:05 p.m. ET on Friday and Saturday, 1:35 p.m. on Sunday.
"Some good thought went through it," Rays principal owner Stu Sternberg said. "It was obviously more of an issue with the White Sox there [in Baltimore this week]. It kind of paved the way for figuring out out what to do. I applaud baseball for trying to get ahead of it. Thinking of the fans thinking of the safety of the players and the fans and everybody else."
Tropicana Field should have a weird vibe given the fact that fans attending the games will see the Rays batting first. They won't hear the horn blare for a Rays home run and they might even see a walk-off home run by the Orioles.
"They're going to adjust, we're going to adjust, and we'll go from there," Rays manager Kevin Cash said.
Chris Archer, who is Tampa Bay's player representative, received the news via a midafternoon text from union chief Tony Clark.
A lot of people's families were planning on coming up [to Baltimore]," said Archer, "so I'm glad this is how it is."
Sternberg said Washington and Philadelphia were mentioned as possibilities for the series and he also pitched Ed Smith Park in Sarasota, Fla., as a site for the games, since it hosts the Orioles during Spring Training.
"Look, for us it's a good solution," said Sternberg, who said he was not interested in the idea of swapping home dates with the Orioles. "If I were in the Orioles' shoes, it's not the greatest thing."
Evan Longoria called the solution "the best thing for everybody involved."
"Just because you're concerned about the security and safety of the players and everybody that's involved with traveling and being a part of everything that the club needs," Tampa Bay's third baseman said. "It's a weird situation, but the circumstances call for some extreme measures."
Commissioner Rob Manfred said: "After conversations with the Orioles and local officials, we believe that these decisions are in the best interests of fan safety and the deployment of City resources. Our thoughts are with all those who have been affected by violence in Baltimore, and everyone in our game hopes for peace and the safety of a great American city."
A solution to the problem has been found, but that doesn't mean it won't feel a bit strange.
"It will be weird starting and throwing in the bottom half [of the inning]," said Archer, who will start Saturday night.
Bill Chastain is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.