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Game lost, jobs could be next

The Rays' latest pitching meltdown might have Joe Maddon ready to try something new.

By MARC TOPKIN
Published May 30, 2007


ST. PETERSBURG - Though it seems obvious a change is forthcoming, the Devil Rays have not been quick to say that Jae Seo is officially out of the rotation.

Maybe that's because he's not the only one who might go.

Casey Fossum made another case for a job reassignment as well Tuesday, lasting just 10 batters into an ugly 14-2 loss to the Tigers.

By the time it was over, five Rays pitchers, including Seo, had given up a season-most 14 runs and season-high 22 hits (matching the most by an AL team this season), including a pair of better-look-fast sizzling homers by Tampa native Gary Sheffield, who showed he isn't quite ready for full-time mentor work yet.

"That," manager Joe Maddon said, "was not a very pleasant experience."

With Fossum, Seo and Edwin Jackson, the Rays (21-29) have three of the least effective starting pitchers in the AL.

And three of the most anxious in the International League, as Jason Hammel (3-5, 2.85), J.P. Howell (3-5, 3.96) and Andy Sonnanstine (6-3, 2.35) are pitching their way into consideration for a promotion from Triple-A Durham.

Sonnanstine is particularly worth watching. His next scheduled start for the Bulls is Thursday and - assuming he makes that - he'd be in line pitch again Tuesday, when the Rays need a fifth starter.

"We're evaluating things constantly, and we'll just see what we're going to do next," Maddon said. "But for right now, I really have nothing to give you concrete."

He might soon. As the players and media left the Rays clubhouse, executive vice president Andrew Friedman was headed in, cell phone engaged.

"There's different considerations that we're going through," Maddon said.

Through 50 games, Rays starters have the fewest wins in the AL (12, or two fewer than Boston's Daisuke Matsuzaka and Josh Beckett) and the second highest ERA (5.66, better than only Texas). They've had 16 games (seven by Seo, six by Fossum) when a starter has allowed at least five runs.

Any surprise the Rays are major-league worst 3-19 in games decided by three or more runs?

Together, Seo, Fossum and Jackson are 6-15 with a 7.73 ERA, and rank among the AL worst in several categories, including ERA, with Seo at 8.10, Fossum 7.89 and Jackson 7.12.

Tuesday, with the Rays coming off an exhilarating walkoff win, Fossum - admitting his velocity is down and "I don't know what it is" - did nothing to continue the momentum.

Well, that's not exactly true. Fossum, who had September shoulder surgery, struck out leadoff man Ivan Rodriguez. Then he gave up five consecutive hits - including the first of Sheffield's homers - as the Tigers scored three. When Fossum, who could soon be headed to the bullpen, started the second with two hits and a hit batter, Maddon had seen enough.

"We played three really good games in a row and to start it up like that really prevents us from getting on some kind of roll," Maddon said. "We have to fix that and we have to get better at that."

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