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Notes: Maddon tinkers with lineup

Notes: Maddon tinkers with lineup

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- The Devil Rays rolled out a new lineup Tuesday against the Indians that featured Carl Crawford in the leadoff spot followed by Ben Zobrist, Rocco Baldelli and Ty Wigginton.

Rays manager Joe Maddon said he entered camp with the idea of having Baldelli hitting first and Crawford second.

"I just felt by having them so close together, I thought it was going to be a good thing," Maddon said. "Now I think it's better to separate them at this point."

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Maddon said the most important feature of the adjustment was putting Crawford back in the leadoff spot to allow him "to utilize all of his abilities as a leadoff hitter." Maddon believes Zobrist will be more of a traditional No. 2 hitter and will be comfortable taking a pitch to allow Crawford to steal a base.

"I think Zoey can fit that mold very well," Maddon said. "Then Rocco, we've seen him in the past. He's got the ability to hit homers and drive in runs."

Maddon said he also likes the idea of Wigginton developing into a cleanup hitter.

"I just kind of like the way this feels," Maddon said. "But, primarily, it's based on what I've seen the last part of last season and the first part of this camp. And now we're just trying to get the offense going with a little different philosophy. You're going to see this for a while. I want to see it all the way through and see where it takes us. I'd like to see [this lineup] go through Opening Day."

Baldelli said it doesn't matter to him where he hits.

"When Joe asked me to hit leadoff last year, I was OK with it," Baldelli said. "He said, 'We may have to move you again.' It doesn't matter. I'll hit third for now and hopefully this lineup will get things going."

Crawford said he was fine with the leadoff spot, but added it would take some adjusting for him to move back to the spot.

"Every time you're put in a new spot in the lineup, you have to tinker with it," Crawford said. "You've got to tinker with how you want to approach it. It's a different approach for every slot."

Wigginton believes hitting in the cleanup spot behind Crawford, Zobrist and Baldelli is a "great spot."

"Especially with the speed in front of you," Wigginton said. "Half the time your RBI situations with these guys are ground balls. ... And I look at the four hole as an RBI opportunity and a chance to hit a ground ball, pick up an RBI, help your team out."

Maddon is not locked in on what the remainder of his lineup will be.

Alumni Award for Rocco: Baldelli has been selected as the recipient of the 2007 Roger Maris Award presented by the Major League Baseball Players Alumni Association. The award was created in 2002 to honor Maris for "hard work, dedication and respect for the game and his teammates." The award is presented annually at the MLBPAA "Baseball for Kids" charity dinner and auction to a current Major League player who exemplifies these same values. The dinner is Saturday at the A La Carte Pavilion in Tampa. Wade Boggs will host the dinner that benefits the Alumni Association and St. Petersburg All Children's Hospital. Kevin Maris, Roger's son, will present the award. Past recipients include Jason Giambi, Derek Jeter, Jim Thome, Tino Marinez and Bernie Williams.

Rays and Chick-fil-A: The Rays and Chick-fil-A have agreed to a multi-year sponsorship relationship. The affiliation includes the 36 area Chick-fil-A restaurants and will involve several different levels of participation for the restaurant chain.

As part of the agreement, Chick-fil-A will receive signage at Tropicana Field in addition to promotion on Rays television broadcasts, plus outdoor signage. To further engage fans and create fun for the family, the Chick-fil-A Cows will be seen throughout Tropicana Field on game days. In addition, Chick-fil-A will now be an integral part of Raymond's Rookies, the official kids club of the Rays, providing special offers and giveaways for its members.

Up next: The Rays will travel to Kissimmee, Fla., on Wednesday night to play the Astros in a 7:05 ET contest at Osceola County Stadium. Right-hander James Shields will start for the Rays and will be opposed by right-hander Woody Williams. Relievers Brian Stokes, Seth McClung and Jeff Ridgeway are also expected to see action.

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

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