New York (1-1) at Tampa Bay (1-1)

Thunder in the Vicinity Currently: St. Petersburg, FL
Temp: 83° F
  • Game info: 7:15 pm EDT Tue Apr 6, 2004
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The toughest decision Joe Torre had to make this spring wasn’t that difficult.

The New York Yankees manager decided the defending AL champions will reopen the season against the Tampa Bay Devil Rays with Kenny Lofton in center field and Bernie Williams as the designated hitter.

Lofton will lead off. Williams, a .305 career hitter who missed most of spring training while recovering from an appendectomy, will hit seventh in a lineup so deep and powerful that Torre says he could draw names out of a hat and not make a mistake.

“My sense is this lineup will change from time to time because you do have a lot of different ways you can go without necessarily being wrong,” Torre said Monday. “The easy part for me is nobody has really had a problem hitting in the spot I’ve put them in.”

The decision to use Williams at DH was made, in part, because the Yankees will play their next two games on artificial turf and Torre would prefer that the five-time All-Star not play the field until the team gets on a grass surface.

Williams just wants to be in the lineup after remaining behind in Tampa while the Yankees and Devil Rays opened the season by splitting two games in Tokyo last week.

“I’m happy as long as I’m playing. It’s a great feeling to be out there. I’m going to be ready for either position,” Williams said. “Both of us are used to playing every day. Right now, it’s just the way it’s going to be. It could be beneficial. It could help keep us healthy and fresh.”

Lofton started in center and batted ninth for the two games in Japan, going 3-for-7 with two walks.

After a workout of about two hours at Tropicana Field on Monday morning, manager Lou Piniella declared that the Devil Rays are over the strains of traveling to Japan and ready to resume their series with the Yankees.

“We’re ready to go,” Piniella said. “We had a good workout today and we’ll be ready to play.”

Toby Hall and Tino Martinez will look to pick up where they left off against the Yankees overseas. Hall went 5-for-6 with three RBIs and Martinez, a core member of New York’s dynastic run from 1996-2000, went 3-for-6 with a homer and two RBIs.

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