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Rays are back to Square 1 with Seo

A rocky start cancels out signs of progress with the starter.

By MARC TOPKIN
Published May 20, 2007


ST. PETERSBURG - Pitching coach Jim Hickey spent Saturday morning watching video of struggling starter Edwin Jackson with plans for extensive work the next few days.

Once he gets Jackson straightened out, he's going to have to settle in with those Jae Seo videos.

And after Seo's performance in Saturday's 7-2 loss to the Marlins, Hickey might want to stock up on snacks and pull up a comfortable chair.

As with Jackson, the Rays had been encouraged by Seo's recent effort, hoping the seven shutout innings he pitched at Toronto last Sunday with seven strikeouts and only two hits was an indication of progress.

Instead, it appeared to be the aberration as Seo returned to his brutal early season form, allowing seven runs in 51/3 innings and giving up three homers.

"It was a difficult outing," Maddon said. "I thought he settled in after the beginning, but they scored three runs on five pitches. We couldn't get anyone warmed up at that point."

In 45 innings this season, Seo has allowed an American League-most 44 runs (just ahead of teammates Casey Fossum and Jackson) and 84 baserunners, including an AL-high 66 hits (10 home runs), while allowing a .346 average, second worst behind Seattle's Jeff Weaver. He is 2-4 with a 7.80 ERA.

The back-to-back losses to Florida extended the Rays' schizophrenic performance, as they came back to the Trop on a four-game winning streak, which followed a six-game losing streak, which followed a 5-5 stretch of extreme ups and downs.

On the other hand, it's May 20 and the Rays (18-24) have the same number of wins as the Yankees, and more than the defending World Series champion Cardinals.

Marlins starter Dontrelle Willis didn't have any such problems, holding the Rays to two runs on five hits over seven innings while striking out seven. The Rays stacked their lineup with right-handed hitters to offset Willis' strengths, but it hardly mattered.

Though the game wasn't close, it wasn't without some spice, as Marlins catcher Miguel Olivo slid, spikes high, into Rays catcher Josh Paul's left arm, causing Paul to writhe in pain with what looked to be a serious arm injury, though he was able to stay in the game. Paul said he had no problem with the play. "No malice," Paul said. "There was nothing wrong with the slide."

The Marlins were already leading 6-1 when Olivo tagged up at second and, after Delmon Young's errant throw to third struck him, turned for home. Paul had to reach across the plate for the wide throw, and Olivo slid in hard with his spikes high, appearing to bend Paul's elbow in the reverse direction.

If the Rays felt the play was dirty, they didn't show it, as reliever Gary Glover didn't throw at, or even close, to Olivo during his next at-bat.

The Rays did get two more home runs.

Elijah Dukes hit his eighth, tying Ty Wigginton and Carlos Pena for the team high and matching -- of all people -- Josh Hamilton for the most among all major-league rookies.

Jonny Gomes - getting a rare start after his impressive pro wrestling debut Friday night - hit his first since shoulder surgery ended his 2006 season prematurely.

"After Jon's performance (Friday) night I thought he earned the right to be in the lineup today," Maddon said.

He had more success on Friday.

Marc Topkin can be reached at topkin@sptimes.com or (727) 893-8801. View his blog at blogs.tampabay.com/rays.