tampabay.com

Parade of pitchers hits sour note

The bullpen falls apart after Fossum's strong start.

By MARC TOPKIN
Published May 5, 2007


ST. PETERSBURG -- Devil Rays manager Joe Maddon was so determined not to pitch closer Al Reyes in a third straight game Friday that he said if necessary he would have instead put a position player on the mound.

Well ...

The five relievers he did use, and the way he had to use them, certainly didn't work out too well as the Rays let another game slip away in a 5-2 loss to Oakland.

A solid outing from an emotionally drained Casey Fossum and just enough offense against AL ERA leader Dan Haren got the Rays 13-16 to the seventh inning with a 2-1 lead.

But as if the fire-eating limbo guy, the 12-piece trombone ensemble and the pack of pro wrestlers behind home plate hadn't made for enough folly pregame, Maddon then turned to the bullpen.

Ruddy Lugo -- with prep work from Jae Kuk Ryu and Shawn Camp -- allowed the A's to tie it in the seventh, making it 28 of the 53 batters faced who have reached base. Then Gary Glover created a mess to start the ninth, and Brian Stokes made it worse, giving up a three-run homer to Nick Swisher.

"We had to go different directions in trying to make it work tonight, " Maddon said, trying to find other relievers he can trust in tight situations. "We're giving guys opportunities to be that guy."

Stokes had gotten Swisher to swing and miss at two changeups to get to a 2-2 count, but he and catcher Dioner Navarro decided to throw a fastball, which Swisher is known to prefer and admitted he was waiting for.

Stokes threw what he said was "a great" pitch, "exactly where I wanted it."

Maddon had a different view. "We just did not make a good pitch in that crucial moment. It was just a fastball in a bad spot. We made a mistake there."

Was the error in location or selection?

"The overall concept of the pitch wasn't exactly what we were looking for, " Maddon said.

It was a similar result to the April 22 game, when Maddon rested Reyes and Stokes allowed a three-run, game-turning homer to Cleveland's Ryan Garko.

The solid six-inning outing capped an emotional week for Fossum, who spent about 23 hours traveling to and from Tupelo, Miss., to attend Thursday's memorial service for Cardinals pitcher Josh Hancock, a close friend and former teammate and roommate who was killed early Sunday while driving drunk.

"I had a long day yesterday," he said. "I know he'd want me to keep pitching and not worry about him. It's hard not to. I felt like I came back pretty good."

Fossum said Maddon was right in taking him out after 99 pitches: "I was gassed."

The problem was his options.

Reyes, who is 10-for-10 in saves in his comeback from 2005 Tommy John surgery, said he was ready, willing and able to work, having thrown 19 pitches Wednesday and 15 Thursday.

"I guess they're being a little bit careful, " Reyes said. "I've been here. I came in and played catch and said if you need me I'll be ready."

Maddon, who has tried numerous combinations without success, resisted the urge.

"Just the fact I think he's so important to us, " Maddon said. "I don't want to push the envelope yet. I think it's way too early to do that in regard to three (straight games). ... I thought for the benefit of us in the long term that was the right thing to do."

Marc Topkin can be reached at topkin@sptimes.com or (727) 893-8801.