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Gonzalez to seek a solution at Durham

MARC TOPKIN
Published May 20, 2004

ST. PETERSBURG - One of Jeremi Gonzalez's problems this season has been location.

So Wednesday, the Devil Rays relocated him.

Gonzalez, who opened the season as the No. 2 starter but was demoted to the bullpen with an 0-4 record and 6.69 ERA, was optioned to Triple-A Durham along with rookie pitcher Chad Gaudin.

The Rays made the moves to make room on the roster for Rob Bell and Jason Standridge, but it appears they also tried to make a statement by demoting the fifth-highest paid player (at $1.7-million) on their struggling team.

"Jeremi needs to start throwing the ball better," general manager Chuck LaMar said. "So far this season he's been a disappointment to us and to himself and to the ballclub. He just has not shown the stuff that he did last year. He's always been an energy guy, a positive guy on the ballclub, and the struggles have worn on him and I think that shows to everyone.

"Basically we're going to send him down and let him win some games and get some confidence going and get back to the competitor he was last year."

The Rays brought Gonzalez back to the big leagues last season after a five-year injury-related absence, and he was their most consistent starter, going 6-11 but posting a 3.91 ERA and allowing three runs or fewer in 17 of his 24 starts.

The right-hander, 29, earned a hefty salary and a key spot in the rotation for this season but struggled from the start, extending his losing streak to 10 and his winless streak to 14.

"I think what Jeremi needs to do more than anything else is win a ballgame or two," manager Lou Piniella said. "It's been a while. How do you get confidence in this business? For a pitcher, it's winning. He needs to go down there and work on a few things, and I think get a couple of wins under his belt. He's been hard on himself, too."

Gonzalez has also had some off-field issues, including a divorce in Venezuela that he finalized last weekend.

GAUDIN TO START: Gaudin, 21, will work as a starter at Durham and is expected to return this season as a member of the rotation.

The Rays were using him in middle relief, but he wasn't getting much, throwing 15 innings in 14 games. Since he moved from Double-A to the majors last season, the Rays figure some Triple-A experience could do him good.

"We like Chad Gaudin," LaMar said. "We think he's a major-league pitcher; I think he knows that and feels like he's a major-league pitcher. Right now for his best interests, and eventually for ours, we need to get him stretched out (as a starter). ... For his age and development he needs to go down there and continue to work on all his pitches and continue to work to get left-handed hitters out."

Gaudin, who was 0-1 with a 3.00, is hoping not to be gone long. "I'm going to go down and work hard and work my way back," he said.

FRESH ARMS: Bell and Standridge took different routes back to the big leagues.

Bell, 27, was taken off the 40-man roster during the offseason and sent to the minors during spring training, but he earned a promotion by going 5-0 with a 1.69 ERA at Durham.

Standridge, 25, was reinstated from the disabled list after completing his recovery from off-season shoulder surgery with a 30-day rehabilitation assignment, going 2-0 with a 4.06 ERA in six starts at Double-A Montgomery and Durham.

"Everything feels good," he said. "I'm not pitching any differently, but I'm pitching with a lot more confidence."

MISCELLANY: The Rays are 0-5 against the Red Sox and have been outscored 28-6 while hitting .169. ... Right-hander Dicky Gonzalez cleared waivers and accepted an outright assignment to Durham. Outfielder Midre Cummings cleared waivers and has until Friday to accept an assignment to Durham. ... B.J. Upton hit his third homer in his seventh game at Durham. ... Rays pitchers have allowed homers in 26 of their past 28 games, including 16 in their past nine. ... Boston's Curt Schilling recorded his 2,600th strikeout, the 20th pitcher to reach that number. ... Jonny Gomes made his first start at DH, going 0-for-4. Overall, Rays DHs are hitting .153. ... The Rays have stolen 16 straight bases without being caught.

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