tampabay.com

Hot-hitting Gomes returns to majors

By MARC TOPKIN
Published April 22, 2005


ST. PETERSBURG - The Devil Rays have been trying to boost the power in their lineup.

So Thursday they brought up the most powerful hitter in the organization, outfielder Jonny Gomes.

Gomes, 24, hit 89 home runs over his first four pro seasons and had five (and a league-leading 20 RBIs) in his first 14 games at Triple A this season.

Gomes hasn't done much in previous brief stints with the Rays, going 3-for-13 mostly as a designated hitter. But he is more mature and experienced, and manager Lou Piniella gave him a chance to be more relaxed Thursday, starting him in leftfield. He went 1-for-3 and scored two runs.

"It's a blast," Gomes said. "This is why you start playing at 6 years old, to have days like (Thursday); come up, get a couple hits, get your uniform dirty."

While the major leagues are different than Triple A, Gomes hopes to do the same thing.

"I just have to take my hard work there and put it to work here," he said.

To make room, the Rays sent John Webb, who started Wednesday, back to Triple A.

They were going to put Webb in the bullpen, where he wouldn't be available for a few days anyway, but decided to try getting by with only 11 pitchers until April 29, when Mark Hendrickson is eligible to come off the disabled list.

BELL BOILS: A day's reflection didn't make Rob Bell any less frustrated by the decision to drop him from the rotation.

"I feel like it was an emotional decision," Bell said. "I've earned my spot here the last two years. I've earned my spot here the last two months. To feel that one bad inning cost me my job is unsettling."

Bell was moved to the bullpen after allowing 10 runs on nine hits and a walk in the second inning Monday in New York. There were, however, extenuating circumstances. He was pitching on three days' rest against the usual four. He had problems pitching there before, and the Yankees were primed after a stinging statement from principal owner George Steinbrenner.

Bell said he thought the Rays might expect him to help out a short-handed bullpen for a day or two but was stunned to be dropped from the rotation.

"I'm frustrated," he said. "I've pitched well enough to get the ball. I've pitched well enough to have that opportunity."

PITCHING IN: Scott Kazmir's pitch count limit will be increased to about 105 tonight as the Rays hope he can get into the seventh. He has lasted five in his first three starts.

Meanwhile, knuckleballer Tim Wakefield baffled the Rays last weekend in Boston, scattering four hits over six innings, and he tends to be even tougher in the controlled environment of Tropicana Field.

In 13 games at the Trop, Wakefield is 5-0 with three saves and a 1.89 ERA.

INTERESTING COINCIDENCE: Wednesday, Ryan Drese became the first Ranger in nearly four years to get a win after allowing at least seven runs. The last to do it? Bell, on July 27, 2001. And who did he beat? The Rays.

MINOR MATTERS: Double-A Montgomery's Chairon Isenia was named Southern League player of the week after hitting .364 with 12 RBIs. He leads the league with 19 RBIs. ... B.J. Upton took an eight-game hitting streak into Triple-A Durham's game Thursday. ... Top draft pick Jeff Niemann was scheduled for his second pro start on Thursday night.

MISCELLANY: Texas' Kenny Rogers, the Plant City High product, had won eight straight decisions against the Rays. ... Organizers of www.oustnaimoli.com are planning a one-inning walkout during the May 28 game to draw attention to their criticism of managing general partner Vince Naimoli. ... Crowds in the upper 20,000-range are expected for the Red Sox games. Tickets are available in most price categories. ... Catcher Toby Hall had three hits for the first time since July18.