tampabay.com

Maddon to be cautious with reliever Reyes

By EDUARDO A. ENCINA
Published April 7, 2007


ST. PETERSBURG - Devil Rays manager Joe Maddon was impressed with how reliever Al Reyes closed Thursday night's game in New York, but he remains cautious when it comes to using the 36-year-old reliever, who is returning from Tommy John surgery.

"I'd rather have a little testing period to know that he's well and that he's not pushing it," Maddon said. "He's nice."

Along with Reyes, Maddon said he's comfortable with relievers Shawn Camp, Brian Stokes and Juan Salas working late in the game, but Reyes is the one of the bunch with the most experience finishing games. In 2005, Reyes finished 18 games for the Cardinals, had three saves and was one of the top set-up men in the game with a 2.15 ERA.

Reyes tested his arm on consecutive days late in the spring and said Friday that he told Maddon and pitching coach Jim Hickey he was ready to pitch again on back-to-back days, but the Rays didn't use him in their 6-5 walk-off win Friday.

"I've been in that situation before where I didn't have a role in the bullpen," Reyes said. "I prepare myself and my mind-set for any time they want to bring me in the game. It can be the third, fifth, sixth, seventh or ninth inning. I just try to concentrate in the situation."

GETTING WORK IN: Fifth starter Edwin Jackson pitched a shortened simulation game Friday because he doesn't make his first start until Monday.

"He pitched so well in spring training that we were concerned that a long layoff might cause him to go back a bit, so we thought it was very important to get him out there," Maddon said.

Jackson hasn't pitched in a game since March 29 against the Red Sox. Maddon hoped to use Jackson out of the bullpen during the Yankees series.

"I was just trying to get that feel back," Jackson said.

JUST LIKE THE REST: Maddon said he is comfortable taking the reins off tonight's starter, left-hander Casey Fossum, who is coming back from shoulder surgery in September.

"He's kind of up to full speed," Maddon said. "He probably could go around 100 pitches if he needed to. We'll let him go, as long as he doesn't throw 30 pitches in one inning and 25 in another. ... Overall, he's ready to roll."

FANS BEWARE: A day after outfielder Elijah Dukes hit home runs in his first two big-league games, talk still focused on Dukes' line-drive shot Thursday that sped into the Yankee Stadium stands.

"I didn't even touch first and it was already hitting somebody in the leg," Dukes said.

Said Maddon: "It had to be one of the quickest homers in history. ... If I'm a fan, I'm getting out the way of the thing."

Dukes singled twice Friday and is 4-for-11 on the season. No major-leaguer has ever hit homers in his first three major-league games.

MISCELLANY: Tampa Bay is the only AL team yet to commit an error. ... The Rays' touch tank is closed during the first series for maintenance. ... Relievers Camp and Ruddy Lugo, along with former Rays Fred McGriff and Aaron Ledesma, will sign autographs before tonight's game from 5:45 to 6:15.

Eduardo A. Encina can be reached at eencina@sptimes.com.