tampabay.com

Catching depth takes big hit

The Rays cross their fingers and hope for the best.

By JOANNE KORTH
Published May 23, 2007


ST. PETERSBURG - The Rays made it through another day Tuesday with one healthy, experienced catcher.

One more day to go.

Backup Josh Paul hyper-extended his left elbow Saturday and could end up on the disabled list. Meanwhile, starter Dioner Navarro is the only other catcher on the big-league roster.

"I'm still waiting to find out more," manager Joe Maddon said of Paul's status. "He's very sore and we're hoping that he can just participate in an emergency role. Hitting is a problem, but he's concerned an awkward movement might impact him."

Basically, the Rays are buying time.

Throwing a kink into things is the fact that Triple-A starter Shawn Riggans, the only other catcher on the 40-man roster, is on the seven-day disabled list with a right elbow injury. Raul Casanova, now in Durham, is not on the 40-man roster, so to call him up the team would need to create space on the roster.

Riggans is eligible to come off the DL on Thursday. Until then, Maddon is rolling the dice a bit, hoping nothing happens to Navarro.

"We're evaluating all the different things and we don't have a real good answer yet," Maddon said.

PUT ME IN, COACH: If worse turns to worst, INF Ty Wigginton is ready as the super-emergency catcher. Wigginton has not caught since a minor-league game in 2001 but would relish the chance to put on the catcher's gear and get behind the plate.

Maddon had Wigginton do some catching work during spring training in 2006 with the intention of getting him into a regular-season game, but it never happened.

"Granted you don't want to see anything happen to Navi or JP, but if I could get back there it would be exciting," said Wigginton, who has never caught in a big-league game. "It would be a lot of fun."

FIGHTING WORDS: The game ended on a deep fly ball to right by pinch-hitter Greg Norton that appeared to hit something, then drop to where it was caught at the wall. While the Mariners celebrated victory, Maddon argued with the umpiring crew.

"I definitely saw it hit something," Maddon said. "That was my argument. I thought it hit the home run ring, but I think it hit a wire coming down. ... I was just a little out of control with that."

DOUBLE DIPPING: LF Carl Crawford was back in the lineup, full of energy after two days of rest. The team was off Monday and Maddon gave Crawford the day off Sunday to create a two-day break.

"We did it two or three times last year and every time he had two days off, that next week he was really good," Maddon said. "I really want to pay attention to that. I'm looking forward to a good week. We'll see."

So far, so good. Crawford was 2-for-3 with an RBI single and a walk, raising his average to .295.

"You feel stronger after a couple days off," said Crawford, who did nothing more vigorous than stretch Monday. "It not only gives your body a day off, it gives your mind a couple days to relax."