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Sox shoot down bobblehead conspiracy

5/1/2014

BOSTON -- Don't blame the bobbleheads.

It’s understandable why the Tampa Bay Rays weren’t in favor of rescheduling Wednesday night’s postponement with the Red Sox as part of a day-night doubleheader Thursday. Acting player representative Ben Zobrist expressed his opposition to union chief Tony Clark in several phone conversations Wednesday.

The Rays are playing poorly at the moment -- six losses in their last seven games, and 11 in their last 15. They have three starting pitchers on the disabled list -- Matt Moore is lost for the season after undergoing Tommy John surgery, Alex Cobb is out with a strained oblique muscle, and Jeremy Hellickson is out after elbow surgery. Cobb and Hellickson potentially would be available if the game is rescheduled later in the season -- the Rays preferred a mutual open date of Sept. 22.

And the forecast is less than ideal during daytime hours Thursday. NECN meteorologist Nelly Carreno said in her forecast Wednesday that heavy rain would be developing after midnight, intensifying by 4 a.m. and continuing through the morning hours, with scattered showers possible in the afternoon.

The Red Sox had their own reasons for wanting to play Thursday. Rescheduling the game for the next time the Rays are in town -- May 30-June 1 -- was out because that would put the Sox in a position of having to play 38 games in a 38-day span. The September date, which comes just before the Rays arrive in town for their last visit of the season, would come at the end of a 10-game road trip and take away the Red Sox's last day off of the season.

And while it went unsaid, the Sox probably don’t mind facing the Rays when they are at less than their best.

"I think there's a professional courtesy that goes on with scheduling, and challenges that both teams face," Farrell said. "You look at common off days and the next time they're in town. All those things go into it."

What did not factor into the decision, Red Sox chief operating officer Sam Kennedy said Wednesday night, was the Dustin Pedroia bobblehead giveaway, a rumor that made its way into the Rays clubhouse Wednesday. The souvenir was scheduled to be a featured attraction at Wednesday night’s game; it will now be distributed at Thursday’s afternoon game.

"I can assure you the bobbleheads had nothing to do with our decision to play two tomorrow," Kennedy wrote in an e-mail Wednesday night. "We have a responsibility to play 81 home games each season, and two games tomorrow gives us the best chance. Of course, you never know what tomorrow will bring weather-wise, but that's baseball in New England."

The Red Sox announced the Wednesday postponement and rescheduled doubleheader at about 4 p.m. ET. An hour later, as the Rays were leaving, Zobrist told reporters that the matter had not yet been settled. It wasn’t until about 7:15 p.m. ET Wednesday that the Rays informed their personnel that the doubleheader would go on as scheduled.

A source with knowledge of discussions between the teams and the union insisted this was not a case of the union acceding to Boston's wishes, that there were other factors involved. It may be difficult to convince the Rays of that, however.

"Yeah, it's frustrating," Zobrist told Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times. "It's frustrating that the weather is bad; it's probably not going to be much better tomorrow morning from what we're looking at. And based upon our wishes, that it didn't matter what we said, that's frustrating. That we didn't have any say in it. Besides that, it won't be frustrating if we win two games tomorrow."

Game 1 of Thursday's day-night doubleheader is scheduled for 1:05 p.m. ET, and Game 2 is scheduled for 7:10 p.m. ET.

ESPNBoston.com contributor Kyle Brasseur provided information to this report.