tampabay.com

Maddon ready to test new infielder right away

By EDUARDO A. ENCINA
Published May 12, 2007


TORONTO - During the offseason, INF Josh Wilson nearly signed with the Rays because he believed they presented the best opportunity for him to succeed.

Now Wilson, claimed off waivers from the Nationals on Thursday, has that chance, albeit nearly six weeks into the regular season.

Rays manager Joe Maddon said he will start Wilson, who has experience at three infield positions, either today or Sunday, most likely at shortstop.

"I'm not really concerned or afraid of putting him out there and just letting him fly with it," Maddon said.

The one statistic that sticks out about Wilson's short-lived career with the Nationals is that he committed five errors in 25 chances in the field.

"The defense just wasn't there, and I really don't know why," Wilson said. "And that's where I need to be good, especially since being a bench guy, most of my time getting in is going to be for defense."

THIEVES, AGAIN: The Rays, who ended April with an AL-high 28 steals, didn't have a steal through the first nine games of May.

Then they faced Toronto RHP A.J. Burnett, stealing a season-high four bases - two by LF Carl Crawford, one by 2B B.J. Upton and one by 3B Ty Wigginton. Burnett entered the game allowing 11 stolen bases in as many attempts.

"We were just trying to cause some havoc on the bases and try to make something happen," Crawford said.

MADDON ACCEPTS BLAME: Maddon emphasized that SS Ben Zobrist's demotion to Triple-A Durham on Thursday had little to do with mechanics but more about putting him in a position to regain confidence.

"It's about what you're thinking and how you're thinking and it's a confidence factor, and he just lost it a little bit. Everybody does.

"Part of that might be my doing in the direction I set for him early on in the season," Maddon said, referring to putting Zobrist second in the lineup.

DUKES LEGAL UPDATE: OF Elijah Dukes' attorneys will go to court Monday seeking to get his marijuana possession charge dismissed.

Tampa police pulled over Dukes' 2006 Dodge Charger on Jan. 15 for a loud music violation, then arrested him and his passenger on the misdemeanor drug charge after finding 2 grams of marijuana in the center console. In their motions, filed Thursday, the player's attorneys question the validity of the traffic stop and the ownership of the marijuana.

The passenger, Willie Evans, told police that the drug was his, court records show. He admitted in a signed affidavit that he took it out of his pocket after being stopped by officers. Evans pleaded no contest in March. A judge sentenced him May 3 to 60 days in jail.

MISCELLANY: RHP Shawn Camp, who left Thursday's game while warming up in the seventh inning with hamstring tightness, relieved starter Scott Kazmir in the seventh Friday, allowing two hits in two-thirds of an inning. ... Durham RHP Jason Hammel tossed seven innings, allowing three runs on six hits while striking out five and walking two. ... Greg Norton started at first base and batted cleanup at Double-A Montgomery, going 1-for-4. He is 5-for-19 on his rehab assignment.

Times staff writer Colleen Jenkins contributed to this report. Eduardo A. Encina can be reached at eencina@sptimes.com.