Four Dodgers return to Trop, Rays roots

Kazmir, Crawford, Howell and Friedman all have ties to Tampa

Four Dodgers return to Trop, Rays roots

ST. PETERSBURG -- A lot of familiar faces could be found in the visiting Dodgers' clubhouse prior to Tuesday night's game.

Most notably among them were former Rays Scott Kazmir, Carl Crawford, J.P. Howell and Andrew Friedman.

Crawford and Kazmir have been back to the Trop since leaving the Rays, but for Howell and Friedman, Tuesday marked the first time they entered the building as a member of the visiting team.

"This is where it started for me and some other guys in here, so it's really cool," said Howell, who left the Rays as a free agent following the 2012 season. "... [Walking in] was so weird. Hard not to turn left into [the Rays'] clubhouse. I mean it's the same guys. The [clubhouse guys] are still here. It's really cool.

"A lot of good feelings about here, a lot of appreciation. Fans have always been great. And that '08 year was magical."

Friedman, the former Rays executive vice president of baseball operations, now runs the show for the Dodgers as the team's president of baseball operations. He left Tampa following the 2014 season.

"Obviously walking in here today, a lot of really special memories," Friedman said. "A lot of people that I still keep in touch with. We were able as a group to accomplish some pretty special things. That will always be a meaningful part of my life.

"... [Walking in] was strange. I walked in with Rocco [Baldelli]. Just saying hello to people that I walked by that I knew for 10-plus years of my life, saying hello. I am incredibly appreciative of the time that I had here. So being able to connect with people again has been really special."

Friedman and company were known for doing a lot with very little in terms of the team's payroll. He was asked whether he felt the changing landscape of baseball makes it even tougher now for a team like the Rays to have a run like they enjoyed during his tenure.

"Looking back the last five years, things have changed a lot," Friedman said. "When there was change, I think we did a good job of finding opportunity in that change. I do think that as more and more large revenue teams adopt some similar behaviors while maintaining the financial advantage, it makes it tougher.

"I said this while I was here, I think every market has its own unique challenges. And a unique set of circumstances that make things challenging. That make things more difficult to overcome. I think it takes an entire organization working together reading off the same songsheet. We did really well."

Friedman allowed that he "definitely had a very good thing in Tampa Bay."

"But I'm excited and invigorated for this chapter of my life that I'm currently living," he said.

Bill Chastain has covered the Rays for since 2005. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.