Zobrist arrives in roundabout way

Published August 2, 2006

ST. PETERSBURG - Ben Zobrist didn't get any hits Tuesday, but that wasn't enough to spoil an unexpected major-league debut as the Devil Rays shortstop.

Three weeks ago Zobrist, 25, was playing Double-A ball for the Astros in Corpus Christi, Texas, and content to be there and doing well.

But then he was traded to the Rays in the July 12 deal for Aubrey Huff; and then he was sent to Triple-A Durham and made a good impression, hitting .304 in 18 games; and then he was called off the field Monday and told he was promoted to the Rays; and then he made his major-league debut Tuesday, starting at shortstop against the Tigers.

Zobrist handled five fielding chances without a problem and handled himself well overall, so the 0-for-4 night at the plate was something he could handle. His wife drove through the night from Durham to be there. His parents and two younger brothers (including Noah, who celebrated his 12th birthday in memorable fashion) who flew in from Illinois. And manager Joe Maddon gave him the lineup card as a most prized souvenir.

"It was great," Zobrist said. "It was awesome. It was really exciting, especially the first moment, running onto the field with everybody was great, and then getting a ground ball in the first inning to get my feet wet. It was a great experience."

Zobrist said he was a little bit nervous, a bit amazed by the luxuries of the major-league clubhouse and, more than anything, honored to be there.

Even better, he gets to come back again.

"I felt like it was a good first game for me, especially in the field," he said. "(Tonight) I'm ready to get some hits and hopefully help the team offensively and defensively."

MEDICAL MATTERS: Ace Scott Kazmir, sidelined by shoulder inflammation, played catch with no problems Tuesday and said he expects to start when he is eligible to come off the disabled list Aug. 8.

"I stretched it out a little bit and it felt great," Kazmir said.

Infielder Ty Wigginton, on the disabled list with a broken left hand, said he plans to return as soon as X-rays show the bone has healed, which could be in as little as three weeks.

"I plan to play whether it's a rehab assignment or here," he said. "I'm bummed. I want to be out there competing."

MINOR MATTERS: Joel Guzman, the prized power-hitting prospect acquired Monday from the Dodgers, is scheduled to join Triple-A Durham today. Sean Burroughs is expected to be activated from the disabled list. ... Delmon Young was named International League player of the week after hitting .429 with four homers and 10 RBIs. ... Baseball America named Durham's Shawn Riggans the best defensive catcher in the Triple-A International League. ... Dan Miceli has pitched three scoreless innings in his rehab assignment with Double-A Montgomery. ... Class A Visalia right-hander Chris Mason picked up his California League-leading 11th win.

MISCELLANY: After the latest roster shuffling, the Rays are the second-youngest team in the majors with an average age of 27.53 according to Stats Inc.; the Marlins are first at 26.52. ... Carlos Guillen was the first Tiger to hit for the cycle on the road since George Kell in 1950 at Philadelphia's Shibe Park. It was the first against the Rays and came in their 1,400th game. ... The Rays' nine victories matched their second fewest for a July; they won only seven in 2002. ... Their 1-11 road mark was their worst for any month.

- MARC TOPKIN, Times staff writer