tampabay.com

With no role, 1B Lee is cut

By EDUARDO A. ENCINA
Published September 11, 2006


ST. PETERSBURG - Travis Lee, the Devil Rays' opening day first baseman, was released by the team after Sunday's game against Oakland.

Lee, who was hitting .224 with 11 homers and 31 RBIs, had his role with the team reduced over the past two weeks. Manager Joe Maddon said the move was made Sunday to give the veteran first baseman an opportunity to sign with a contender for the final three weeks of the regular season. He wouldn't be eligible to play in the postseason.

"We just felt as though there was no playing time left for him here," Maddon said. "Being that there was no real plan for him with us now or in the future, we just felt it was the right thing to do right now."

A message left on Lee's cell phone was not immediately returned Sunday evening.

It became clear that Lee, 31, didn't factor into the team's plans. He hadn't played since Sept. 1, when he entered as a defensive substitution against Seattle. His playing time had dwindled in recent months, especially as Ty Wigginton and Greg Norton began to establish themselves as two of the team's top offensive producers. Given that situation, the Rays didn't see the merit of keeping around a veteran who would be unhappy with his lack of playing time.

Still, he held a .998 fielding percentage, having committed just two errors in 915 total chances.

FOSSUM LOOKING TO FUTURE: Two days after successful arthroscopic surgery on a fraying labrum in his left shoulder, Rays pitcher Casey Fossum was back in the clubhouse talking about the future.

The procedure, which took just 30 minutes, was performed by team physician Koco Eaton. Fossum, who said he will be ready for spring training, had surgery for a torn labrum after the 2003 season.

"I've gone through this once before, and it wasn't the same thing from my first surgery," Fossum said. "Today I did some exercises, and I found my range of motion was great even though they didn't repair anything. They just cleaned it up. I'm not really rehabbing it like a tear."

Fossum, who said he struggled with his velocity as the shoulder began to hurt, now faces an offseason of rehab, which he believes will make him a better pitcher next year. In recent months, he said he struggled to top 90 mph with his fastball.

"Sometimes I did lack my fastball where I couldn't elevate it and blow it by someone, but on the other hand I've really learned how to use my breaking stuff this year and my changeup," Fossum said.

MINOR MATTERS: Double-A Montgomery faces Huntsville in the Southern League championship series, which opens Thursday. The Biscuits completed a 3-0 sweep of Jacksonville in their division series with a 2-0 walkoff win Saturday night. Third baseman Evan Longoria, the Rays' first-round draft pick this season, hit a two-run homer with two outs in the bottom of the ninth. Starter Mitch Talbot, acquired as part of the Aubrey Huff trade, pitched a five-hit shutout, striking out 14 with just one walk. ... Class A Visalia, down 1-0 in the California League semis, played at San Jose on Sunday night.

MISCELLANY: Injured pitcher Scott Kazmir will not accompany the team today when the Rays travel to New York. ... Rocco Baldelli hit his 10th homer of the season, giving the Rays 10 players with 10 or more homers. They became the eighth club all time to reach that mark. That includes the since-departed Julio Lugo, Huff and Russell Branyan. ... Carl Crawford stole his 49th base, extending his AL lead. ... Julianna Zobrist, wife of shortstop Ben Zobrist, sang the national anthem before the game.