tampabay.com

'Bad baseball' miffs Baldelli

The Rays outfielder questions his team's effort after getting rolled by Twins.

By MARC TOPKIN
Published April 15, 2007


MINNEAPOLIS -- The contrast from Friday's impressive performance to Saturday's embarrassing 12-5 loss was so great there was reason to question the Devil Rays' effort.

And one of their key players did.

"I just don't think we came ready to play today," veteran outfielder/DH Rocco Baldelli said. "Maybe I'm missing someone, but I don't think there's one guy who came to the field ready to go and have a good effort. Obviously we went out there and tried, but that wasn't anywhere near going to be good enough or acceptable.

"There's no explanation for it. It's just bad baseball."

They were bad all the way around.

Edwin Jackson gave them a bad, and brief, start, failing to get through the fourth. Shawn Camp and Ruddy Lugo continued to make relief look like a lost cause. The Rays misplayed a half-dozen balls, making three official errors, including two on a simple relay. They were essentially shut down by a Twins starter, Sidney Ponson, who was shaky from the start. They struck out 12 times, four by rookie Elijah Dukes who has 11 in 31 at-bats and a .161 average.

About the only thing that could have made the night more insulting nearly happened. Jason Tyner, the former Ray, came just a few feet shy of ending the longest career homerless streak among active players in his 1,068th at-bat, driving a Lugo pitch high off the right-centerfield wall.

The Rays (4-7) got off to a poor start, as Jackson walked two of the first three batters and threw a wild pitch. Then B.J. Upton, who was sloppy all night, and Ben Zobrist each made an error on a relay play that manager Joe Maddon called "fundamentalism at its lowest level. That's something you practice since Little League, and we just messed it up."

Jackson, who looked so good in his season debut Monday in Texas, took the blame, though without much of an explanation.

"The truth is, excuse my French, I just pitched like a (expletive) today," Jackson said. "Point blank. I pitched with no conviction. ... It's just going out there pitching like you have no confidence, like you're trying to pitch away from contact."

Maddon thought he looked uncomfortable and disheveled. "It's just one of those things with youth," he said. "We still don't know what we're going to get on a nightly basis with him."

Jackson walked five, allowed three hits and hit a batter, meaning nine of the 18 batters he faced reached base. By the time he left in the fourth, the Rays were down 5-2, and it was going to get worse.

"When you start out that poorly pitching it's usually difficult to stay in the game and come back," Maddon said.

Camp continued his rough start as his first three batters reached, on two singles and a hard-hit ball to third that Akinori Iwamura asked to be changed to an error. Still, Camp's ERA is 13.50, 11 of the 19 batters he has faced have reached base, opponents are hitting .500 and six of his eight inherited runners have scored. Lugo has a 24.00 ERA and has allowed 15 of 25 batters to reach base.

"Youth and inexperience," Maddon said.

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