tampabay.com

Rotation facelift 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 the time they reconvene Friday after today's off day, they may have some to talk about.

"We're just having conversations, but nothing's been firmed up yet," manager Joe Maddon said. "We've given, what, two months now of the season to really try and evaluate the situation and, again, we're having conversations about possibly doing something else. But it's still in conversation stage, and we'll see."

The prime concerns 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. Each has allowed 11 home runs, third most, and they've had 13 starts combined in which they've allowed five or more runs.

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

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 ever since that game I've been just not ready. 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 (282, 251 and Texas' Ian Kinsler (207, 170) and is just ahead of Boston's Dustin Pedroia (141, 636). The only other Ray among the leaders is Carl Crawford, 14th among OFs with 147, 912 votes. Balloting continues through June 28.

MISCELLANY: Maddon said he was "very proud of the boys" after hearing his college team, Lafayette, made the NCAA Tournament. ... The Rays listed Monday's starter as "undecided, " but Maddon said it would be James Shields, who pitched Wednesday and would be on his normal fifth day. ... Crawford is three hits shy of Aubrey Huff's team record of 870.