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Fossum feels so good it hurts to leave

Fossum pitched into the third inning in his second spring start since September shoulder surgery.

By JOANNE KORTH
Published March 18, 2007


ST. PETERSBURG - RHP Casey Fossum pitched into the third inning in his second spring start since September shoulder surgery. He was much more relaxed Saturday than in his first outing. Now if he could just get his fastball popping.

Fossum did not allow a run in 22/3 innings against the Indians. He faced 12 batters, giving up three hits and two walks with one strikeout during a 41-pitch performance. He would have liked to have stayed in, but he knew it would be foolish to push too hard.

"I'm still trying to condition my arm and body for starting," said Fossum, expected to be the third or fourth starter. "I'm coming off rehab and surgery, and you have to take things step by step, even if you're ready. We have to make sure that every step of the way my arm is responding the right way, which it has so far."

Fossum was pleased with his ability to throw curveballs for strikes early in counts. He had good movement on his fastball but said the pitch still needs work.

"My fastball I need to hone in a little more," Fossum said. "My arm feels so good right now and I want to throw it as hard as I can, but it will come."

Fossum appeared upset when he was taken out one out shy of finishing the third. Turns out he was unhappy about some pitches that just missed the strike zone.

"If I'm picky about just missing, I've kind of got my competitive nature back," he said. "I'm out there competing and get caught up in the moment sometimes. I felt like I made some good pitches out there."

UNTIMELY HITTING: The Rays had nine hits in a 5-3 loss to the Indians, but they failed to come up with a big hit to tie or take the lead in the late innings.

"We saw 143 pitches," manager Joe Maddon said. "We just have to do a little better getting that big knock, and that's going to come. But the at-bats were good. They were pro at-bats."

IMPORTED WHEELS: The team invited several minor-leaguers to Saturday's warmup session to help with rundown and pickoff drills, a more realistic simulation than having members of the coaching staff do the running.

"Two consecutive years I pulled hamstrings out in Anaheim acting as a runner," Maddon said. "So, I always keep that in the back of my mind."

SPLIT SUNDAY: The Rays' projected starters will truly be split today for games in Clearwater and Lakeland. Most will be in Clearwater, including INFs Akinori Iwamura, Ben Zobrist, Jorge Cantu, B.J. Upton and Ty Wiggington and OF Carl Crawford. Among those going to Lakeland are INF Greg Norton and OFs Rocco Baldelli, Delmon Young and Jonny Gomes.

Maddon will go to Lakeland for the American League game and third-base coach Tom Foley will manage in Clearwater instead of bench coach Bill Evers, who has a personal commitment.

PITCHING CHANGE: RHP Gary Glover, a candidate for a bullpen job, is scheduled to start Tuesday against the Indians, rather than RHP Jae Seo, to give the team a better look at Glover. Seo will pitch a minor-league game.

MISCELLANY: RHP Al Reyes will pitch one inning in a Triple-A game Monday. ... OF Dustan Mohr nearly hit a grand slam in the bottom of the seventh, but the ball drifted just outside the leftfield foul pole. ... The team held a meeting in which Maddon reviewed the all-phases execution in Friday's 8-3 win against the Pirates, "Reality and theory came together, and whenever that happens it's so nice."

Joanne Korth can be reached at korth@sptimes.com or 727 893-8810.