BOSTON — The rain rolled in and the Tampa Bay Rays ran off the field five minutes after starting their workout.
Their first opening day as AL champions already had been postponed until Tuesday, originally an off day, because of a forecast of heavy rain and high winds.
Carlos Pena didn’t mind waiting to take his cuts at the home of the Boston Red Sox.
“We didn’t want to hit anyway,” the Rays slugger said Monday with a laugh as he returned to the tiny visitors’ clubhouse at Fenway Park. “We’ll hit tomorrow.”
They hit enough against the Red Sox in Game 7 of last year’s AL championship series to win 3-1 and advance to the World Series, where they lost to the Philadelphia Phillies.
There have been some interesting personnel changes since then.
Rocco Baldelli, whose RBI single broke a 1-all tie in the ALCS finale, is now with Boston. Pat Burrell, whose double began the winning rally for the Phillies in the decisive fifth game of the World Series, is with Tampa Bay.
Some things remained the same — Boston’s Josh Beckett and Tampa Bay’s James Shields, Monday’s scheduled starters, will meet in a rematch of Game 6 of the ALCS, a 4-2 Red Sox win.
And the Rays, despite their climb from last place in 2007 to the World Series, still are opening the season on the road, subject to the uncertainties of the early spring weather in New England, rather than in the warmth of their dome at home.
“It’s not really a surprise to me,” said Shields, who was never home for a season opener in his three full seasons with the Rays. “We’ve got to win more to get that honor.”
“You would think” the AL champs would open at home, Rays outfielder Carl Crawford said, “but I think they make these schedules a while before.”
The last Red Sox home opener that was postponed was in 2003, also because of rain.
There was plenty of warning Monday as long-range forecasts called for rain to start during the afternoon and continue through the day. It stopped briefly after the Rays left the field then began raining heavily 15 minutes after the scheduled 2:05 p.m. starting time.
Tampa Bay manager Joe Maddon agreed with the decision to call the game early but said, “I know the weather’s good at Tropicana Field.”
The postponement caused the Red Sox to tinker with their rotation. No. 5 starter Brad Penny will pitch at the Los Angeles Angels on Saturday rather than Sunday. Beckett will switch from Saturday to Sunday to get a full four days of rest.
“Because he’s such a pro and his experience is vast in a number of different settings, I’m sure … his anticipation coming in today and pitching was clear,” Boston pitching coach John Farrell said, “but he’ll have no problem getting back up for (Tuesday).”
Beckett had to wait one more day to make his first opening day start in four seasons with the Red Sox. Curt Schilling got the call the first two seasons and a back injury kept Beckett from pitching last year’s opener in Japan.
The Red Sox did get in a long workout before the Rays took the field.
“You hate to work for two months and then sit around for three days,” Boston manager Terry Francona said.
By missing the World Series, the Red Sox sat around longer in the offseason than they would have liked. But now they want to knock off the Rays as AL East champions, even though Kevin Youkilis has heard talk that their offense isn’t as strong as it was last season when they traded Manny Ramirez on July 31.
“From what I heard in the talks around town is our offense got weaker,” said Youkilis, who replaced Ramirez as cleanup hitter. “That’s our goal this year is to, I guess, have to prove people wrong again.”
The Rays feel they have nothing to prove. One outstanding season, they believe, can overshadow a history of futility.
“We don’t have to prove anything to anybody,” Shields said. “We know what we’re capable of doing in this clubhouse and we know what we’re capable of doing out on the field.”
Notes: Francona said pitcher John Smoltz and first baseman-outfielder Mark Kotsay, both on the disabled list, will travel with the Red Sox to Anaheim. … Tampa Bay’s Jeff Niemann said, “It hasn’t really set in yet” that he gained the fifth spot in the rotation. “Hopefully, I can be here for a while.” That spot was assured for the No. 4 overall pick in the 2004 draft when the Rays traded pitcher Jason Hammel to Colorado on Sunday.