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Career minor-leaguers earn bullpen spots
By DAMIAN CRISTODERO
Published April 2, 2006
ST. PETERSBURG - Safe to say neither Jason Childers nor Ruddy Lugo were on anybody's radar when spring training began.
Both were career minor-leaguers. Neither has pitched in a major-league game. Kind of cool, then, both found out Saturday they won jobs with the Devil Rays as right-handed relievers.
"They earned the right to be here," manager Joe Maddon said. "They've done a great job. These guys came in and were very impressive. They've thrown strikes, and they got hitters out on a consistent basis."
"It means everything," Childers said. "This is what I wanted to do my whole life.
"The odds are against every kid trying to make it in the major leagues. Today, I beat those odds."
Childers, 31, with his fourth organization and in his 10th year as a pro, did not allow a run in 122/3 innings. Lugo, 25, the brother of Rays shortstop Julio Lugo, had a 2.45 ERA in 11 innings.
"I just came to spring training open-minded, hoping Tampa Bay would give me a chance," Ruddy Lugo said. "I hoped I would perform well. It turned out that way."
In Maddon's "amorphic" bullpen, both likely will be used in middle and short relief.
Both admitted to some nerves when called into Maddon's office before a spring-ending 4-3 loss to the Tigers at Tropicana Field.
"I didn't even want to go in," Lugo said. "It just feels weird to be up here. I've been struggling to be here all my life."
"My foot is in the door," Childers said. "The hard part is to stay. I'm going to put forth every effort I can and do everything I can to get an advantage and try to stay here."
JACKSON SENT DOWN: He was clearly disappointed, but Edwin Jackson said all the right things after he was sent to Triple-A Durham.
"I thought I threw pretty well," said the right-hander who lost the fifth starting spot to Doug Waechter. "But I'm sure every decision they make is for the best. I won't second-guess anyone."
Jackson, 22, and his 97 mph fastball made a strong case. In six starts, he was 1-1 with a 5.16 ERA and 16 strikeouts in 222/3 innings.
"He did a great job here," Maddon said. "But there are still a couple of things we want him to work on."
"I'll use it as something to work towards," Jackson said. "If I'm being sent down and they feel there's something I need to work on, I'll work on it."
COACHING SHUFFLE: Bench coach Bill Evers, who on March22 had a benign tumor removed from his colon, is expected back for the home opener April 10 against the Orioles.
Until then, Maddon said bullpen coach Bobby Ramos will take Evers' spot and bullpen catcher Scott Cursi will be the bullpen coach.
GAME DETAILS: Joey Gathright had two hits and was 5-for-8 in his last two games with two bunt singles.
... Right-hander Brian Meadows, signed Thursday as a free agent, made his debut and allowed three runs (one earned) on three hits, including a home run, in 12/3 innings. ... Right-hander Dan Miceli pitched a perfect inning with two strikeouts. ... Attendance was 6,139.
MISCELLANY: Childers is the second-oldest Rays rookie.
Pitcher Jim Morris in 1999 was 35. ... Outfielders Damon Hollins and Jonny Gomes made their first opening day rosters.