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Rays notebook: Pitchers shift turns in search for a cure

Manager Joe Maddon tweaks the rotation.

By JOE SMITH
Published May 21, 2007


ST. PETERSBURG - Manager Joe Maddon has slightly tweaked the pitching rotation in an attempt to spark two of his starters.

Taking advantage of today's off day, LHP Scott Kazmir will start Tuesday's series opener against the Mariners and RHP Edwin Jackson will be skipped in the rotation, making his next start Saturday in Chicago.

Maddon said he wanted to give Jackson some time to work with pitching coach Jim Hickey on a mechanical problem. Jackson is 0-6, sharing the AL lead for losses, with a 7.78 ERA. Opponents are hitting .308 off Jackson, who has allowed 73 baserunners including 23 walks.

"I somehow started over-rotating, " Jackson said. "And it makes the ball go here and there. I was doing it earlier and somehow I got away from it."

As for Kazmir, Maddon hopes returning his ace to four days rest "gets him back to the sharpness he normally has." The past two starts, Kazmir (2-2, 3.83) has thrown on five days. His two wins came on four days rest, a situation Kazmir said "makes you more sharp."

"We've had quite a few off days, " Kazmir said. "We're just pushing everyone back six days, six days. Sometimes you can get a little sluggish if you're not really a guy that burns out the bullpen.

"Come Tuesday, I'm going to try to stop this little slide we're doing and get back on track."

DRAFT CHAT: Rays scouting director R.J. Harrison wouldn't tip his hand Sunday but said the club plans to pick one of three prospects with its No. 1 selection in the first-year player draft on June 7, Vanderbilt LHP David Price, Georgia Tech C Matt Wieters and Cypress High (Calif.) 3B Josh Vitters. Harrison said he has met with all three and will sit down with the club's scouting staff in the next couple weeks to get a consensus on the "top prospect available."

BEAN BALL: OF Elijah Dukes appeared to take offense to a Matt Lindstrom pitch in the eighth inning that whizzed over his head. Dukes took a step toward the mound before getting cut off by home-plate umpire Bill Welke. Dukes said he asked Lindstrom, "What's the problem?" getting no response. But Dukes explained he was merely trying to elicit a response from his team, then down 4-3.

"I was upset, " Dukes said. "I wanted to win. I wanted to try to spark the team in any kind of way."

The next inning, Rays RHP Al Reyes plunked Dan Uggla with a pitch. Uggla had the last laugh, however, going 3-for-4.

PAUL OKAY: C Josh Paul's left arm was sore and wrapped in a sling one day after Florida C Miguel Olivo slid hard into him spikes high. Maddon said that tests were negative but that the club will reevaluate Paul's condition today. With Paul unavailable, IF Ty Wigginton served as the Rays' emergency catcher Sunday.

HOT BAT: With his two-run homer Sunday, Rays 1B Carlos Pena took the team lead with nine and extended his season-high hitting streak to seven games.

MISCELLANY: Maddon gave LF Carl Crawford the day off. ... Former St. Petersburg College star Alfredo Amezaga started in centerfield for the Marlins. ... The Rays have lost five of their past six games at the Trop.

Joe Smith can be reached at joesmith@sptimes.com or at (727) 893-8129.