tampabay.com

Rotation facelift is pending

By MARC TOPKIN AND EDUARDO A. ENCINA
Published May 31, 2007


ST. PETERSBURG - Wednesday, Devil Rays officials were still discussing changes to their rotation. By Friday, they may have some to talk about.

Executive vice president Andrew Friedman said there will be intense discussions today about prospects for promotion at Triple-A Durham, specifically whether they are ready to come up and if they have a "foundation" to have success.

"We're having a lot of internal discussions and it appears that there are some guys who are getting real close to satisfying that part of their development, " Friedman said. "But it's something we'll spend a lot more time on (today), the off day, discussing in much greater detail."

RHP Andy Sonnanstine (6-3, 2.35 at Triple-A Durham, scheduled to start tonight), LHP J.P. Howell (3-5, 3.96) and RHP Jason Hammel (3-5, 2.85) are the most likely candidates for promotion.

The leading candidates to be dropped are RHP Jae Seo and LHP Casey Fossum, who are a combined 6-9 with an 8.01 ERA.

Seo, going into play Wednesday, has allowed the most runs (53), earned runs (47) and hits (84) of all AL pitchers and has an opponents average of .372. Fossum has allowed the second-most runs (50) and earned runs (45) and sixth-most hits (73) with an opponents average of .336.

Fossum, who makes $2.7-million and has a $3-million option (or a $300, 000 buyout) for 2008, could end up in the bullpen, which has been without a lefty.

Seo, who makes $1.2-million and can't be sent directly to the minors since he is out of options, seems more likely to end up on waivers or released.

RHP Edwin Jackson (0-6, 7.12) has also struggled, but the Rays seem likely to give him more time given his age (23) and upside.

SPEED BALL: Fossum said he thinks he can do better by throwing harder, something he has been reluctant to do since his September shoulder surgery.

"My first game of the year against Toronto I cut some loose and it just wasn't there, " he said. " I think I'm ready to cut it loose. It's kind of like I'm driving my car in fourth gear. I think I'm ready to bump it up to fifth gear and hopefully it's there."

STARRY-EYED: B.J. Upton ranks fourth among AL second baseman in the first round of All-Star balloting released Wednesday with 141, 720 votes. He trails the Yankees' Robinson Cano (322, 994), Detroit's Placido Polanco and Texas' Ian Kinsler and is 84 votes ahead of Boston's Dustin Pedroia. The only other Ray among the leaders is Carl Crawford, 14th among OFs with 147, 912 votes.

MISCELLANY: The Rays notched their major-league-most 19th comeback win. ... Elijah Dukes set a team rookie record for homers in a month with seven. ... Upton extended his hitting streak to nine games. ... The Rays are 19-10 in games decided by two or fewer runs. ... Manager Joe Maddon said he was "very proud of the boys" after hearing his college team, Lafayette, made the NCAA Tournament.