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Closer opportunity open for Walker
By DAMIAN CRISTODERO
Published May 7, 2006
OAKLAND - Manager Joe Maddon said it is time the Devil Rays had a true closer, and he will give hard-throwing right-hander Tyler Walker every chance to win the job.
"Yes, absolutely," Maddon said Saturday. "Nothing has been given, and he is understandable of that. He hasn't asked for anything."
Maddon said he believes having a primary closer will help promote consistency in the bullpen because relievers will know their roles.
The Rays have had a closer-by-committee program with Dan Miceli, Chad Orvella and Shawn Camp filling the role. But with Miceli on the 15-day disabled list with right shoulder soreness, the time could be right for Walker.
"I would much prefer giving the game to one guy," Maddon said.
Giving it to Walker seems to make sense. He had 23 saves last season and has a 95-mph fastball.
Maddon said he also has the right temperament.
"I like his aggressiveness," Maddon said. "And I like that if he has a bad day today, it doesn't bother him the next day. If you want to be a closer, you have to be that way. I like that he's able to brush it off."
"My manager in A ball said to us, "You're only as good as your next time out there,"' said Walker, acquired last month from the Giants for right-hander Carlos Hines. "That's how you have to live, with a short-term memory."
After giving up four runs to the Red Sox in one-third of an inning and two runs to the Yankees in 11/3, Walker had consecutive scoreless outings against the A's.
"I'm going to keep him at the end of games, absolutely," Maddon said. "I like this man. You have to be accountable in this position, and he is."
ONE OF THE BEST: Greg Norton's first pinch-hit home run of the season was the 10th of his career, two behind Pittsburgh's Craig Wilson for most in the majors since 2001.
"I'm not going to tell you my theory," Norton said. "It's going to be in the paper, and I don't want pitchers getting an advantage on me. I just go up there and try to get a pitch to hit and get on base any way I can."
A BENIGN STEAL: A's first baseman Dan Johnson believed he had drawn a second-inning walk off Rays starter Seth McClung, so he jogged to first. Jay Payton, on first, jogged to second.
But it was only ball three. Rays catcher Josh Paul returned the ball to McClung, who saw Maddon signaling. But it was too late to make a play on Payton.
"It was probably the most benign stolen base in history," Maddon said.
INJURY BUG: Minor-league pitcher Chuck Tiffany will work at the Naimoli Complex for the next 4-6 weeks as he rehabs from left shoulder tendinitis, Rays executive vice president Andrew Friedman said.
"It could be shorter," Friedman said. "We're just being cautious and doing it the right way."
Friedman said Tiffany, acquired from the Dodgers with Edwin Jackson in the Danys Baez trade, left Double-A Montgomery on Thursday to meet in St. Petersburg with Rays team physician Koco Eaton.
"Shoulders are always a concern," Friedman said. "We're going to be sure and continue to treat him the right way."
LATE FRIDAY NIGHT: The Rays' 3-1 victory snapped a four-game losing streak and an 11-game losing streak in Oakland that dated to July9, 2003.
Scott Kazmir pitched 52/3 innings and improved to 4-2 with his second straight win. Toby Hall, Ty Wigginton and Jonny Gomes drove in runs.
CANTU AUTOGRAPHS: Second baseman Jorge Cantu will sign autographs at 6 p.m. today at Clearwater's Coachman Park.
MISCELLANY: The Rays are 0-7 this season against left-handers. ... Russell Branyan's home run off Barry Zito was his first hit in nine at-bats against left-handers. ... Kazmir was faster to four wins (30 games) than any Rays pitcher. ... Kazmir is the first Rays left-hander to win in Oakland. They were 0-7.