With Paul on DL, Riggans given opportunity to prove himself

Published May 25, 2007

ST. PETERSBURG - Backup catcher Josh Paul is out six weeks or more with a sprained left elbow, so rookie Shawn Riggans has an extended tryout to make his case as a major-leaguer.

Riggans was called up from Triple-A Durham on Thursday, taking the place of Paul, who was placed on the disabled list retroactive to Sunday.

"I just want to try to get off on a good start, try to contribute to the team, win some games," said Riggans, 26. "I just have to take advantage of my opportunity."

Paul, 32, was batting .245 in 15 games, and his five RBIs were only four fewer than starter Dioner Navarro had totaled in 34 games.

"I was really pleased with the way J.P. was playing," manager Joe Maddon said. "I thought he had really elevated his game this year, and you saw his arm, how well he was throwing."

Riggans, who said he would likely start Saturday or Sunday in Chicago, was on Durham's disabled list with an elbow injury, a bruise from a pitch by Jeff Niemann that bounced in the dirt and caught the inside of his nonthrowing arm.

Riggans joked that Niemann was working on a splitter when he hit him with the pitch.

"It was 93 mph, so I don't know how much splitting it was doing," he said. "He's working on it."

Riggans made his major-league debut in September, batting .172 in 29 at-bats. After a 1-for-19 start in Durham, he raised his average to .295 with four home runs and 14 RBIs.

Navarro, 23, entered Thursday hitting .184 and hadn't driven in a run in his past 10 games. He got a run-scoring single in the third, and an inning later, he drove in two runs with his first career triple, which came in his 565th major-league at-bat.

"I was going hard the whole time," said Navarro, who kept the ball as a memento.

CANNONS FIRING: Two of the Rays' biggest outs came at home, with RF Delmon Young throwing out Seattle's Jose Lopez in the second inning when he tried to score from second on a single by Ichiro Suzuki.

Lopez got in trouble again in the fourth, hitting a ball off the wall in left-centerfield that B.J. Upton misplayed. Lopez, given the green light at third down 10-4 with no outs, tried for an inside-the-park home run, but Upton found SS Brendan Harris, whose relay throw got Lopez easily at the plate.

CAMP HAPPY: Of the eight pitchers in Thursday's game, reliever Shawn Camp was the only one not to surrender a run, pitching a season-high 1 2/3 innings of one-hit ball and drawing praise from Maddon.

"I think Camper was the hero for tonight's game," Maddon said. "For me, that was the performance of the night beyond all the hitting and everything else."

THIS AND THAT: Maddon reiterated that 3B Akinori Iwamura, out the past month with a strained oblique, is on schedule to return Monday when the Rays open a home series with Detroit. Iwamura played in extended spring training Thursday, going 3-for-3 with two doubles as a designated hitter. ... Think you had a rough day? Mariners reliever Sean White, who took the loss, gave up seven earned runs on six hits and three walks in two-thirds of an inning, giving him an ERA of 94.50 for the day.