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Oh, brother

Sibling rivalry is a big topic with the Rays, with four having brothers in spring camps.

By MARC TOPKIN
Published February 27, 2007


Playing on the same major-league team with his older brother Julio last season was thrilling and exciting for Devil Rays reliever Ruddy Lugo. But the real fun is coming. Julio is with the Red Sox now, and either in the two spring training games next month, or in the 18 games between the Rays and the Red Sox this summer, they could get to face each other for the first time at any level.

"That would be pretty cool," Ruddy Lugo said. "I'll get him. I've got to get him out because it's part of the game, and because otherwise he'll start talking stuff. I know I will."

There's lots of brotherly love being discussed in the Rays clubhouse right now. Three other players - Tim Corcoran, B.J. Upton and Delmon Young - have brothers who are in major-league training camps.

Plus, Jonny Gomes' brother Joey, a former Rays minor-leaguer, is playing in an independent league. And James Shields is a brother-like first cousin with Phillies centerfielder Aaron Roward.

"Family affair," Jonny Gomes said.

"It's unique. Special. Something else," Ruddy Lugo said. "It's hard enough to put one person in the big leagues. To put two from the same family, it must be in the genes."

The relationships can make the brothers' lives easier, especially early in their careers. "It's very rare you have someone that close to you who's going through the same things you are," Jonny Gomes said, "like riding a bus for eight hours in the minors, or going through an 0-for-30."

Certainly, the younger brother can benefit from the older's experiences, as Delmon Young did from Dmitri, who has been playing pro ball since Delmon was 5.

And, apparently, Justin Upton from B.J. "I taught him everything he knows," B.J. laughed.

The Youngs were the first brothers to both be taken in the top five picks of the draft, with Dmitri going fourth to St. Louis in 1991 and Delmon No. 1 overall by the Rays in 2003. The Uptons one-upped them, when B.J. was taken second overall by the Rays in 2002 and Justin No. 1 by Arizona in 2005.

The Corcorans, Gomes and Uptons have played together briefly but have never squared off. The Youngs, despite being 12 years apart, got to play against each other once, in a B-game exhibition in the spring of 2004, when Delmon was in his first spring with the Rays and Dmitri a veteran with the Tigers.

"There's lots of bragging rights," Corcoran said.

Here is a look at the five bands of brothers:

The Corcorans

Tim, Rays

28, 6-2, 201

5-9, 4.70 ERA in 31 games, 2 seasons

Roy, Marlins

26, 5-10, 170

0-1, 5.89 ERA in 16 games, 3 seasons

Job status: After six seasons in the Expos/Nationals organization, Roy signed with the Marlins and is a nonroster candidate for a spot in their bullpen, likely as a middle reliever. Tim is competing for a similar job in the Rays pen.

Brotherly love: During two seasons together at Jackson (La.) High, Roy was sometimes Tim's catcher. They pitched on the same winter ball team in 2003 in Puerto Rico and have talked often about pitching against each other in the majors. "He's told me I'd better watch out," Tim said.

Who's better? They're close, though Tim has had more success.

The Uptons

B.J., Rays

22, 6-3, 185

.251, 5 HRs, 22 RBIs in 95 games

Justin, D'backs

19, 6-1, 195

.263, 12 HRs, 66 RBIs at Class A, 1 season

The Gomes

Jonny, Rays

26, 6-1, 225

.241, 41 HRs, 114 RBIs in 231 games

Joey, Newark Bears

27, 6-2, 210

.295, 52 HRs, 282 RBIs in 488 minor-league games

Job status: Joey, an eighth-round pick in 2002, played OF/DH for four seasons in the Rays minor-league system with some success, getting as high as Double A. He was let go after the '05 season and ended up in the independent leagues. Jonny, an 18th-round pick in 2001, is coming back from shoulder surgery with a vengeance, seeking to reclaim his DH spot in the lineup.

Brotherly love: The Gomes played together at the end of the 2002 season, when Joey was promoted to Class A Bakersfield after leading the NY-Penn League with 15 homers. Jonny was leading the Cal League with 30 but was surpassed on the final day, preventing them from becoming the second pair of brothers to win home run crowns in history. The Gomes - raised by a single mom in tough times - hope to team up again someday. "That would be awesome," Jonny said.

Who's better? Jonny, by a long home run.

The Lugos

Ruddy, Rays

26, 6-0, 205

2-4, 3.81 ERA in 64 games, 1 season

Julio, Red Sox

31, 6-1, 165

.277, 68 HRs, 336 RBIs in 920 games

Job status: Julio, who was traded from the Rays to the Dodgers in July, signed a four-year, $36-million deal to play shortstop and lead off the potent Red Sox lineup. Ruddy, a rookie surprise last season, is looking to retain his spot as a middle reliever in the Rays bullpen.

Brotherly love: The Lugos, the only set of brothers to play for the Rays, teamed for the first official time in a May 7 game at Oakland. They've joked often about facing each other, but when they actually do meet Ruddy figures he'll have the most to prove. "I've got to do my job," Ruddy said. "He's got his 36, I've got nothing."

Who's better? Sorry, Ruddy, there's no question.

Job status: Justin, the No. 1 pick in the 2005 draft, is a nonroster invitee to Arizona's camp after switching to the outfield in his first pro season. He likely will open at advanced Class A. B.J., the No. 2 pick in 2002, is trying to make his first opening day roster, likely as a super-utility man.

Brotherly love: They played together on a fall league travel team but never against each other. Doing so for the first time in the bigs - the Rays play in Arizona in June - would be cool. "I told him to hurry up," B.J. said. "But an All-Star Game would be even better."

Who's better? B.J. for now, but Justin is coming fast.

The Youngs

Delmon, Rays

21, 6-3, 215

.317, 3 HRs, 10 RBIs in 30 games

Dmitri, N'tnals

33, 6-2, 235

.289, 154 HRs, 599 RBIs in 1178 games

Job status: Dmitri is in camp with Washington as a non-roster invitee trying to prove he can handle a reserve 1B/OF role after a tumultuous 2006 marred by personal problems (alcohol rehab), legal issues (domestic violence charge) and health concerns (since diagnosed as diabetes). Delmon, after his own controversy in the minors, is expected to start - and star - in RF for the Rays this season and many more.

Brotherly love: Delmon got to hang around Dmitri and his big-league teammates growing up, but they haven't been on the field much together given their age difference. They faced each other in the 2004 spring B game, with their father, Larry, videotaping. The next spring, Delmon homered against the Tigers, and Dmitri, who was in the dugout but not playing, stood and cheered. As for playing against each other for real? "It'd be fun," Delmon said. "But it's not like I'd be pitching against him, like Lugo would be."

Who's better? Delmon, quicker, and by more, than you'd guess.