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Yankee legend’s request: Longoria’s scribble

Posted Mar 5, 2010 by Tribune Sports

Updated Mar 5, 2010 at 02:04 PM

TAMPA - Greetings from Steinbrenner Field, where it’s sunny and warming up and a big crowd is filling in for the Rays-Yankees game at 1 p.m.

Manager Joe Maddon had a nice chat with 84-year-old Yankees legend Yogi Berra during warmups, and if there had been a memory card in my camera, you would be looking at a photograph. Maddon said he could only relate part of the conversation, which included Berra’s wife, who is ill, and Rays legend Don Zimmer, a former Yankees coach.

“My first year here, I told Zim I want to meet Yogi Berra because he and Yogi were such good buddies,” Maddon said. “So he set it up. and we went out to dinner over by the airport somewhere. Since then, Yogi always comes and visits. And the really fun thing about the conversations are the fact that he will always remember what we talked abou the last time that we saw each other.

“So he comes into the stadium in New York, we sit down and we talk, and he’ll always ask questions based on our prevkous convverations. Which I’ve always found impressive. The other thing is, he has a a bit of a likeness to my dad, facially, so when I look at him, it’s kind fo weird. He’s got a little bit of my dad, facially, so it’s kind of interesting to always see him. He’s really kind. To be able to sit down and just bs with Yogi Berra is kind of cool.”

Maddon said Berra made an expected request: He wanted an autograph from Rays third baseman Evan Longoria.

“He feels as though Longo reminds him of Joe DiMaggio a bit, so I thought that was kind of interesting,’ Maddon said.

Some other highlights of our pre-game media chat with Maddon:

- Maddon said Sean Rodriguez, who starts in left field today after playing shorstop yesterday, will play all the outfield positions, along with short and second base.

“He’s just like (super utility man Ben Zobrist,” Maddon said. “You feel comfortable wherever you put him. If you watch him do his work, they’re very similar. They’re very dedicated. They don’t complain, man. ‘Put my name in there, I don’t care where it is; I’ll be ready.’ It’s very refreshing and very comforting, because you feel good about it and you know you can move things around because of those guys.”

- Maddon also said lefty relief pitcher J.P. Howell, whom the Rays want to keep from wearing down this season, will only make six or seven appearances during the spring and they’ll be counted backwards from the end of camp April 2. So don’t expect to see Howell until at least around March 15. New closer Rafael Soriano also won’t make many appearances, but Maddon couldn’t say how they’ll be spread out.

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