Gomes' time comes for a game, at least

Published April 21, 2007

ST. PETERSBURG -- A year ago, Jonny Gomes set a Rays record with 11 home runs in April. But this season, with the emergence of rookies Delmon Young and Elijah Dukes, he had totaled 10 at-bats in the Rays' first 15 games before getting a start at designated hitter Friday night.

"These guys already know what I can do. It's just a matter of my time coming," Gomes said before the game.

Manager Joe Maddon said he wanted to get Gomes' bat in against LHP C.C. Sabathia, but he said Gomes' attitude on the bench was a factor, too.

"Jon's been working his butt off, has handled this whole situation like a true pro," Maddon said. "He has not complained one second, and I really wanted to get him into the lineup somehow."

Gomes, batting eighth, struck out looking in the third inning and popped out to right in the fifth. He was hit on the elbow by Sabathia in the seventh, leaving Gomes with a .167 average this season.

Sticking with a hot bat, Maddon had INF Brendan Harris .360 hit second and played him at shortstop, where Ben Zobrist has 12 starts but is batting .160, including no hits in his past 14 at-bats.

Zobrist is still limited by the virus that has struck most of the roster, Maddon said, and he'll be back at shortstop before long.

"Ben still is going to be out there a lot, but he's not feeling 100 percent," Maddon said. "I want to get them both involved."

Harris doubled and scored in the sixth inning but had his second error of the season in the eighth inning with the score tied.

BULLPEN HOPE: Rookie reliever Juan Salas entered the game with the staff's second-best ERA at 4.50 after a solid outing with 1 2/3 innings of scoreless relief Wednesday against Baltimore.

"I like what he did the other day. He pitched with a lot of confidence and had some bad swings at him," Maddon said. "That's what I've been looking for. The quality of the swing against him -- they're missing it, they're mis-hitting it, and they have that look on their face like, 'What was that?' "

Salas pitched a scoreless eighth inning Friday, allowing an infield single to Casey Blake but striking out Mike Rouse and Josh Barfield to end the inning. Salas struggled in the ninth, giving up a leadoff double to Andy Marte and walking Grady Sizemore before he was relieved by Al Reyes.

THEY'RE TRYING: The Rays ended two innings when they were caught stealing and have been thrown out 13 times in 16 games. No other team in the majors had been caught more than six times entering Friday.

Aggressive running helped the Rays tie the score in the seventh, as Young tried to steal third and Victor Martinez's throw sailed into leftfield, allowing him to score the tying run.

JUST VISITING: Tampa's Carl Everett, who played for Seattle last season, visited Tropicana Field and took in batting practice with the Middleton High baseball team, including his godson, junior infielder Jamie Mallard. Everett, 35, plans to sign next week with the Long Island Ducks of the Independent League.

THIS AND THAT: The umpiring crew for this series includes Bruce Froemming, who this month set the record for consecutive years of service at 37. He surpassed Hall of Famer Bill Klem, who umpired from 1905-30 and is the only umpire with more career games (5,374) than Froemming. ... Kelli Bartik will fill in tonight for Todd Kalas on Channel 66's broadcast.

Greg Auman can be reached at auman@sptimes.com or (813) 226-3346.