tampabay.com

The good and, well, just the ugly

Akinori Iwamura remains hot, but relievers Shawn Camp and Ruddy Lugo are anything but.

By MARC TOPKIN
Published April 10, 2007


ARLINGTON, Texas - The remaining 25 weeks will tell a lot about the Devil Rays. But the first week has revealed at least two important things.

Japanese third baseman Akinori Iwamura has been very good.

Rays relievers Shawn Camp and Ruddy Lugo have not.

Iwamura continued his dazzling debut in Monday's 8-4 loss to Texas, extending his career-starting hitting streak to six games by singling in the Rays' first two runs even though his average went down to .500 and making another pair of sensational plays at third base.

Camp and Lugo, meanwhile, extended their sorry starts, ruining what had been an impressive first outing by No. 5 starter Edwin Jackson, who battled gamely into the sixth of what was a 2-2 game.

By the time they were done Monday, Camp and Lugo had faced six batters. All reached base, and four scored, as did the two Jackson left on, as the Rangers pulled ahead 8-2.

"It just didn't work out," manager Joe Maddon said, "but Jack was spectacular in a lot of ways today."

Camp and Lugo have been anything but - of the 32 batters they've faced, 19 have reached base.

Camp pitched in four games and cost the Rays (2-4) in three of them. He gave up a two-run lead in the season opener, allowed a two-run go-ahead homer Friday (though the Rays came back) and the go-ahead runs again Monday.

Overall, he has a 15.43 ERA, opponents are hitting .500 (7-for-14), and eight of his 15 batters have gotten on. Worse, four of his six inherited runners have scored.

Lugo has been even worse. His ERA is 22.50, he has allowed a .583 average (7-for-12), and 11 of his 17 batters have gotten on. Plus all three inherited runners have scored.

"Me and Ruddy, we didn't do our job tonight," Camp said. "That's something we're going to address, me and him. We felt like we were big parts of this bullpen, and baseball's a tricky game. It turned in a hurry. Just keep going out there, y'know. I think the biggest thing is keeping our heads up, keeping our composure. Don't let this get out of hand. Obviously, it can be a long season for a pitcher, especially late in a game, if you're going to do that."

Maddon said it was too early to be worried about the performance of the only two relievers from last year's poor-performing bullpen to keep their jobs.

But with a handful of potential replacements at Triple-A Durham (such as Seth McClung and Chad Orvella), it will be interesting to see how long he feels that way.

"We just need to keep talking to them, keep them in the right frame of mind and just keep throwing them out there," Maddon said. "That's who we've got. That's who we're going to work with. I have a lot of confidence in these people."

Iwamura, who started the day second in the majors in hitting (.529) and on-base percentage (.619), continues to be the Rays' biggest brightest star.

After going 1-for-3 with a walk, Iwamura has reached based in 13 of 25 plate appearances and has been tremendous in the field.

"He's playing at a very high level," Maddon said. "There's not much else we can ask for."

Marc Topkin can be reached at topkin@sptimes.com or (727) 893-8801. View his blog at blogs.tampabay.com/rays.