tampabay.com

Nomo continues to be a no go on the road

By MARC TOPKIN
Published July 6, 2005


CHICAGO - Hideo Nomo has pitched some good games for the Devil Rays. And he has pitched some that manager Lou Piniella diplomatically described as "not nearly as good."

Monday's outing was one of those, as Nomo gave up five runs in the first inning and eight over four-plus as the Rays lost 10-8 to the White Sox.

For Nomo, it continued a troubling pattern of pitching much worse on the road, where he is 1-6 with a 9.60 ERA, than at home, where he is 4-1, 3.56.

Piniella said the Rays will try to counter that by scheduling Nomo to pitch more often at Tropicana Field. But the better solution would be for Nomo to pitch better overall, primarily by pitching down in the zone.

"That's the whole thing," Piniella said. "When he gets it down, and he makes his pitches, he's much more effective."

Nomo leads the Rays with five wins, but his 6.80 is the second highest in the AL among pitchers with at least 50 innings. He is scheduled to pitch Saturday at home and in Toronto and Boston during the first two post-All-Star break series, but questions will mount about his future with the team if he continues to struggle.

Another factor are the incentive clauses in Nomo's contract, which are based on a point system involving appearances and innings. In addition to his $800,000 base salary, he had already hit the first two bonuses, for a total of $140,000, and Monday reached the third, which was worth an additional $90,000. He will make another $90,000 with three more starts and can earn a total of $700,000 if he takes his regular turn for the full season.

ON THE MARK: It was certainly lost in the agony of defeat, but Mark Hendrickson pitched very well Tuesday and the Rays played relatively well.

Hendrickson held the best-in-baseball White Sox to three runs on eight hits while pitching into the seventh. "For the most part," he said, "it was a pretty good outing."

Rightfielder Aubrey Huff gave him more credit: "He deserved to get a "W.' "

Hendrickson, who has won once since May 27, said he has been using his curve more and getting better results with it.

"They're a good-hitting team against left-handers, and I thought he did a nice job," pitching coach Chuck Hernandez said.

THEY'RE THE ONES: Pitchers Jeff Niemann and Wade Townsend, the Rays' top picks in the past two drafts, are working their way back from injuries and should resume pitching in games soon, player development/scouting director Cam Bonifay said.

Niemann, the top 2004 pick, has been sidelined since early May by shoulder soreness after making five starts for Class A Visalia. He has been working out in St. Petersburg, and Bonifay said he should soon rejoin one of the minor-league teams to throw live batting practice and simulated games before returning to game action by the end of the month.

Townsend, the top pick in June, has been out with a stiff neck since his pro debut, one inning June 24 for short-season Class A Hudson Valley. "He should probably pitch at some point this week," Bonifay said. Because Townsend sat out a year before joining the Rays, he will be brought along slowly.

MINOR MATTERS: Double-A Montgomery right-hander Jason Hammel continues to impress, tossing the first complete game in Biscuits history to improve to 8-2 and lower his ERA to 2.65. ... Rob Bell had another rough outing at Triple-A Durham, allowing six runs, including three home runs, in 21/3 innings of relief. ... Leftfielder Francisco Leandro was promoted to Visalia from SW Michigan.

MISCELLANY: The Diamondbacks, among the teams interested in closer Danys Baez, had top scout Bob Gebhard at the game. ... Carl Crawford ranks last among the five candidates in online voting for the final AL All-Star spot. Votes are accepted at mlb.com until 8 tonight. Crawford hit his first leadoff homer of the season, fifth of his career. ... Infielder Fernando Cortez made his big-league debut, grounding out in the ninth.