Why Fox broadcaster Kevin Burkhardt is joining the Rays crew


PORT CHARLOTTE — Fox Sports broadcaster Kevin Burkhardt will join the Rays TV crew this season.

Burkhardt, who primarily calls NFL games and hosts Fox’s baseball studio show, will work 20 or so road games veteran play-by-play man Dewayne Staats is scheduled to take off on the Fox Sports Sun broadcasts.

Hiring Burkhardt, 44, who worked previously on Mets, provides a regular fill-in for Staats. Pre- and post-game hosts Rich Hollenberg (and previously Todd Kalas), and radio broadcasters Andy Freed, Neil Solondz and Dave Wills have all been used previously.

Staats, 66, said he was fine with the move, and has no plans to step down anytime soon, having been with the Rays since their 1998 inception.

“They told me they’d like me to do the games as long as I want to do them, and they don’t know how dangerous that is,’’ Staats said, noting he will benefit from the physical break and more family time at home.

“I think this was a function of them finding a guy. … When Todd was here it was an easy slide (out for a few games); it’s a little more challenging now. So I think this addresses some of that. So we’re good to go.’’

Burkhardt, who calls a few national games a year for Fox, wanted the opportunity to do more baseball, which created the pairing. “I’m excited about the opportunity to call games for one of the most underrated teams in baseball and can’t wait to watch the Rays in action this season,’’ he said in a release.

Duffy has sore hamstring

Infielder Matt Duffy is going to be out a couple days in a preventative measure after feeling tightness in his left hamstring during baserunning drills Wednesday. “It’s probably more caution on our part but he has had (hamstring issues before) so we’re going to do everything we can to knock that out of there,’’ manager Kevin Cash said.

Spring things

* Relief candidate Ian Gibaut is likely to miss most of spring training after a specialist confirmed he has a mild lat strain. Gibaut said he took that as good news in not being worse, and that it happened when he was playing catch rather than pitching so there was less damage.

* Cash said he was looking forward to starting games, that “it will be good to see a different color jersey.’’ But he also acknowledged that also will get old as they have nearly five weeks until the March 28 season opener. “It’s always nice and then we’ll get a week in and you get over playing games that don’t count,’’ he said. “It’ll be a lengthy spring but there should be some excitement with some youth and the unknown of guys playing some different positions that will keep us more engaged.’’

* Cash and staff met with MLB officials Joe Torre, Peter Woodford and Chris Young to discuss potential rule changes and similar issues, but said there was nothing definitive. Torre declined comment.

* The Rays have taken over operations for spring games at the Charlotte Sports Park from the Stone Crabs staff; and if you are wondering, cash still is accepted.

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