tampabay.com

Rays wait for bug to run its course

By MARC TOPKIN
Published April 19, 2007


ST. PETERSBURG -- The Devil Rays aren't sure of the exact cause of the virus that has been passing among their players. They just hope it goes away soon.

"It's plaguing all the major leagues right now from what I understand," manager Joe Maddon said. "Everybody's just feeling pretty bad today. It's kind of swept through our clubhouse and today seems like the worst day."

3B Akinori Iwamura apparently had it the worst, with vomiting and other issues, and was scratched. That meant Ben Zobrist, who was up most of the night with chills and a fever, was forced back into the lineup. B.J. Upton (who played) and Dioner Navarro (who didn't) had similar symptoms. Josh Paul had what he said was a sinus infection.

It wasn't just the players. Hitting coach Steve Henderson was so sick, he couldn't get out of bed and stayed home. Bench coach Bill Evers was there but felt so bad he didn't leave the dugout to deliver the lineup card, leaving the duties to Maddon for the first time.

"It was a tough day physically for the guys," Maddon said.

There doesn't appear to be much the Rays can do to stop the spread, which has been ongoing for more than a week. Trainer Ron Porterfield briefed the players on the importance of washing their hands, gave each a small bottle of hand sanitizer and suggested they not share towels on the bench. He even inquired if having the home clubhouse disinfected would help. (It wouldn't.)

The Rays canceled batting practice since there was a bigger crowd in the trainer's room than the main clubhouse. Third-base coach Tom Foley walked around the clubhouse wearing a blue surgical mask.

The healthy players tried to be resourceful. Ty Wigginton volunteered to catch. Rocco Baldelli offered to play third. Pitcher James Shields was being considered for potential pinch-hitting or -running duties.

The bug, believed to be some kind of viral infection, first hit about 10 days ago when relievers Ruddy Lugo and Gary Glover were sidelined. "These are the carriers," Maddon joked. "They are the ones who infiltrated the entire system."

STOKES SLOWDOWN: Maddon said he will try to be more selective in using rookie Brian Stokes, who, as the most reliable setup man, pitched in eight of the first 14 games -- a pace for a whopping 93 appearances.

"We've had Stokesy up way too often and that's my fault," Maddon said. "I don't want to get him up so much that we abuse him to the point he can't lift his arm up in August."

ROCKIN' ROCCO: OF/DH Baldelli jumped on Erik Bedard's fourth pitch for his sixth career leadoff homer, matching Carl Crawford for the franchise most. It was Baldelli's first hit off a lefty this season; he had been 0-for-11.

MISCELLANY: The Rays have blown 12 leads in 15 games. ... CF Elijah Dukes was the eighth Ray to have two assists in a game. He also had two hits after getting two in his past 24 at-bats. ... The Rays stranded 22 in the three games. ... Scott Kazmir fanned leadoff man Brian Roberts for his 400th career strikeout.