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As Maddon institutes reliever shuffle, Lidge intrigue begins
By BY MARC TOPKIN,Times staff writer
Published April 11, 2007
ARLINGTON, Texas - The Rays will try, for now, to improve their bullpen by using the relievers they have in different roles, with journeyman Gary Glover and rookie Jae Kuk Ryu next in line for more important late-inning work.
Should they decide to look outside for help, deposed Houston closer Brad Lidge could be an interesting option if the Astros make him available.
Manager Joe Maddon insisted he wasn't demoting struggling RHPs Shawn Camp and Ruddy Lugo, who have a combined 18.71 ERA and allowed 19 of 32 batters faced to reach base, but merely giving others a try.
"This is an area we have to get better at; it's a big part of us doing well," Maddon said. "I'm willing to experiment a little bit, and I will. But it's not for a lack of faith in anybody as much as I want to give other guys a look in those situations."
Glover, 30, has been primarily a starter and middle/long reliever (with two professional saves) and Ryu almost exclusively a starter in the minors. Glover, who has impressed Maddon with his aggressiveness, has thrown 32/3 scoreless innings; Ryu (after working three innings Tuesday) has allowed one run in 51/3.
Maddon plans to use veteran Al Reyes as the closer and rookie Brian Stokes "more toward the end," but said the rest of the alignment is "a little bit up in the air."
Lidge, 30, is a former star closer (42 saves in 2005) who has struggled recently and was demoted Monday from the closer's job. He also has fallen out of favor with the Houston fans, which could accelerate his departure given the operating style of owner Drayton McLane, as could his $5.35-million salary.
On Tuesday, general manager Tim Purpura told the Houston Chronicle there was "no doubt" Lidge had the physical ability "to be as successful as he ever was," that he didn't think a change of scenery was needed and they weren't in any hurry to deal him.
"Obviously, you're always doing an inventory of who you have. And if you get into a situation where you have excess in a certain area, you might look at that. But at this point, I don't feel we're in that position," he said. "I'm not in any kind of a rush mode to move any player right now."
But if they do, the Rays would be a logical trading partner because they could use Lidge and have several things the Astros need: a frontline centerfielder (Rocco Baldelli?), young starting pitchers (Jason Hammel? Andy Sonnanstine? J.P. Howell?) and/or a future starting catcher (Shawn Riggans?)
But the Astros could be reluctant to deal with the Rays given the presence of Gerry Hunsicker, their former GM, in the Tampa Bay front office as well as the perception that the Rays got the better of them in getting SS Ben Zobrist and RHP prospect Mitch Talbot in a July deal for Aubrey Huff.
DH DUKES: For now, rookie OF Elijah Dukes will spend more time at DH with Baldelli in center. But Maddon remains concerned how Dukes, 22, will handle the sometimes challenging assignment, and he wants to establish some kind of rotation with LF Carl Crawford and RF Delmon Young as well. That doesn't leave much opportunity for Jonny Gomes, and it may be that way for a while. "It's tough," Maddon said.
MINOR MATTERS: Jorge Cantu (hitting .238) will be used at first base (he played there Monday) for Triple-A Durham and also at second and third to increase his versatility and, perhaps, his value. ... In two Durham starts, Hammel has allowed one run in 10 innings. ... Class A Vero Beach, rained out Tuesday, is 0-4 and has scored just nine runs.
MISCELLANY: The Rays homered in their first seven games for the first time; the 2000 team did it in six. They lead the majors with 12 homers. ... Utility INF Brendan Harris did early work in the outfield Tuesday.