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Bubba's return now a long shot

By MARC TOPKIN
Published April 28, 2004

BOSTON - Bubba Trammell's comeback may be over already.

Trammell has left the Devil Rays' Triple-A Durham club for what the team said were personal reasons and, according to his agent, may not play again this season.

Trammell, one of the most popular players in Tampa Bay history, was signed to a Triple-A contract April 10 and got off to a smashing start, hitting .366 with four homers and 14 RBIs in 10 games, prompting speculation he could soon rejoin the Rays.

But Trammell has not played since Saturday and the Rays today will put him on the temporary inactive list. Trammell left the Yankees mysteriously in June for personal reasons that were described as depression and sat out the rest of the season. He went to spring training with the Dodgers but was released. When he signed with the Rays, he said his problems were behind him.

Agent Len Hardison, in a series of e-mails Tuesday night, said Trammell needed some time away and received permission from the Rays.

"He did not leave due to depression or to seek counseling. Nor was he the least bit upset with the Devil Rays. They have treated him well. I do not know if he will play again this year but if he does it would be with the Rays organization," Hardison wrote.

"He needed some time away from the game to reevaluate some other opportunities and the Rays were gracious enough to grant it. It is nothing more than that."

Trammell, 32, played with the Rays from 1998-2000 as an outfielder and DH, developing something of a cult following among Tropicana Field fans.

SOGGY NIGHT: Tuesday's game was postponed around 8:40 p.m. after what started as an early evening shower turned into a nightlong rain. The game will be made up Thursday afternoon as the first game of a day-night doubleheader rather than on a later visit.

"I'm sort of surprised we'd double up this early in the year," Rays manager Lou Piniella said.

The Rays decided to keep their pitching rotation intact, which means Paul Abbott will start tonight, Victor Zambrano and Damian Moss will handle Thursday's games and Doug Waechter and Jeremi Gonzalez will pitch the first two home games against Oakland. The Rays will need a starter for Sunday, with John Halama a possibility.

The Red Sox decided to skip knuckleballer Tim Wakefield and will pitch Curt Schilling tonight, then are likely to activate Byung-Hyun Kim (right shoulder strain) off the disabled list for Thursday's day game and use Derek Lowe in the nightcap.

THE BIG SCHILL: The matchup with Schilling, one of the game's top pitchers, should be interesting. The Rays have faced him twice but not since 1999, when he was with Philadelphia. None of the players from that game is still with the Rays.

Several of the Rays' new veterans have faced him and, to a man, they say it is not easy. Schilling is a power pitcher who also keeps an extensive "book" on his opponents to be aware of their weaknesses.

"It's like a mind game," Robert Fick said. "He tries to be one step ahead. You read about how he does all this preparation and how he knows what he's going to do to you before the game. It's kind of like a chess match."

Schilling, though, will have to rely on outside information regarding most of the Rays because he has never faced Rocco Baldelli, Carl Crawford, Aubrey Huff or Toby Hall.

And that, Geoff Blum said, could actually be to the Rays' benefit.

"That might be the only advantage we have," Blum said.

MISCELLANY: Jose Cruz was not going to play Tuesday because of a stiff back and probably won't start tonight. ... Former Rays outfielder Jason Tyner was close to a Triple-A deal with the Braves. ... Don Zimmer said he did not see or talk to Pedro Martinez, with whom he engaged in the now infamous brawl during last year's playoffs.

[Last modified April 28, 2004, 01:05:41]

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