Seo simplifies things in sharp comeback

Published May 3, 2007

ST. PETERSBURG -- Joe Maddon knew RHP Jae Seo could return to the form that gave the Rays manager the confidence to name him the team's No. 2 starter.

But April wasn't kind to the right-hander, who had allowed 30 runs in 23 2/3 innings, the most in the majors, and worked to a 9.51 ERA. Opponents were batting .398 against him.

But this was the same pitcher who gave the Rays eight outings of six or more innings while allowing two or fewer runs in 16 starts last season.

The key in Wednesday's 4-3 win over Minnesota was keeping it simple. Seo allowed just two runs, both on Torii Hunter's homer in the second inning, on seven hits over six innings.

"Tonight it was just pitching, " Seo said. "The last game, too much thinking."

Seo's outing Wednesday mirrored last season for another reason because when he left the game, he was trailing 2-1. Last season, he had the lowest run support among all AL starters.

"Jeo Seo had a nice comeback tonight, " Maddon said. "After Hunter hit the homer, you're concerned that it might start to snowball, but he kept it in check and continued to pitch well."

NORTY ON REHAB: 1B/DH Greg Norton, who had right knee surgery on April 2, will report to Double-A Montgomery for a rehab assignment and play in his first game Friday.

Maddon said he wants Norton to get about 30 at-bats at Montgomery. Norton was 1-for-11 in three extended spring training games.

Last year, Norton strained his left hamstring late in spring training, but he said this year's recovery had been more difficult because of the added off time.

BOOF'S BACK: St. Pete native and former Gibbs High product Boof Bonser, pitching his second game in his hometown, noticed slightly less fanfare in his return.

"It was a little less, " said Bonser, who allowed just one run on six hits over six innings. "I think I got more heckled this year. I'll tell you that. It's a little weird, but that's baseball."

MINOR MATTERS: At Triple-A Durham, RHP Jason Hammel struck out 10 and walked none Tuesday. Hammel allowed two runs on seven hits over six innings. He has 39 strikeouts in 32 2/3 innings, and opposing hitters are batting just .195 against him. ... Montgomery RHP James Houser, on the DL because of his wisdom teeth being pulled, will miss at least his next start after tweaking an oblique during a bullpen session. ... Both benches cleared twice in Montgomery's game against Jacksonville on Sunday, and two players plus Biscuits manager Billy Gardner Jr. were ejected.

MISCELLANY: The Rays are 2-for-18 with runners in scoring position in this series, with the two hits producing the tying and winning runs Wednesday. ... RHP Al Reyes has a win or save in 10 of the Rays' 12 wins. ... 3B Akinori Iwamura finished second by two votes to Red Sox RHP Hideki Okajima for April's AL rookie of the month award. ... Reds OF and former Rays first-round pick Josh Hamilton was the NL rookie of the month.

Eduardo A. Encina can be reached at eencina@sptimes.com.