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Rest appears to have awoken offense
Something happened to the Devil Rays' bats after Monday's off day.
By EDUARDO A. ENCINA
Published March 22, 2007
KISSIMMEE - Something happened to the Devil Rays' bats after Monday's off day.
Since then, Tampa Bay has put together its best back-to-back offensive efforts of the spring, most recently a 9-2 win over the Astros on Wednesday night at Osceola County Stadium. The Rays' nine runs and 15 hits were both spring training highs.
"I just think it's starting to come together," said first baseman Ty Wigginton, who had a pair of doubles, two runs and two RBIs. "I think everybody knows that offense is always a little behind in the beginning of spring training."
Five Rays had multiple hits and leadoff hitter Carl Crawford and centerfielder Elijah Dukes had three each.
It all came together for Tampa Bay in a six-run fifth against Astros starter Woody Williams. The first seven batters reached base. But what had manager Joe Maddon most pleased was the way his top-of-the-order shuffling worked to start that rally.
Crawford, on first after a leadoff single, stole second. New No. 2 hitter Ben Zobrist then worked the count full before singling home Crawford. Four hits, including three of the team's six extra-base hits, followed.
"That's what we're talking about," Maddon said.
SHIELDS WILD BUT TAME: Despite a spring-high four walks, starter James Shields yielded just two runs on six hits over 51/3 innings.
"We really need to work on that," Maddon said of the walks. "The AL East really strives on walks."
Shields threw 94 pitches, which allowed him to stretch his arm out.
"I think every pitcher will tell you that you only have your good stuff once a month," Shields said. "I felt a lot stronger at the end than the beginning, which is a good sign. If I felt I was breaking down, not throwing many strikes at the end, then we have a problem, but I felt really good."
RIDGWAY SENT DOWN: The team made one roster move before Wednesday's game, reassigning LHP Jeff Ridgway to Triple-A Durham, but Maddon said he expects to see the reliever back in a Rays uniform soon.
Ridgway, a legitimate candidate to earn a left-handed bullpen spot going into the spring, struggled with his control in his first big-league camp. He walked a team-high seven batters to just one strikeout with an ERA of 11.12.
"I saw good stuff," Maddon said. "I think that sometimes when a guy comes to his first spring training, it's difficult to make the team out of that camp. So they go out, they get a taste, they know what it's like, they feel like they can do this and then they go back, they do well, you call them up and then they stay. I think he might be one of those guys."
Ridgway said he felt the newness of his first big-league camp might have affected his performance.
"It's kind of nice that I don't have to hold my breath anymore," Ridgway said. "I'm not saying I was doing that, but you feel like you were carrying the weight of the world, occasionally, and I don't want to feel like that again. ... I didn't even pitch in Double A until last year, so everything I'm doing to this point has been new."
MISCELLANY: With Rays 3B Akinori Iwamura used to Japan's 140-game schedule, Maddon said he will likely sit him against some of the top left-handed pitchers in the league to give him rest. ... Maddon said he will give his team an easier day Saturday with a day game after a night game. ... Maddon reiterated that he believes B.J. Upton appears most comfortable at second, where he started Wednesday. "It just seems like this side of the field is amenable to him," Maddon said. ... The team will have its annual MLB security meeting before tonight's game.