Maddon sees an 'edge' in Witasick

Published June 13, 2007

ST. PETERSBURG - Jay Witasick was looking for a chance to pitch more innings than he was in Oakland. The opportunity to pitch more important innings is why the veteran right-hander signed with the Devil Rays, capping a bullpen makeover that unexpectedly included Ruddy Lugo being designated for assignment.

"It's a young club here and there's a lot of potential in the immediate future, and those are things I was part of in the past with San Diego and Colorado, so I think it was a good fit for me ..." Witasick said. "For the most part, coming here gives me the opportunity personally to be do some pitching."

Witasick, 34, initially will be slotted into a seventh-inning role, with manager Joe Maddon hoping he performs similar to what he did in 2005, posting a 2.84 ERA (though a 1-5 record) in 60 games for the Rockies and A's. He was 1-0, 3.60 in 16 games for Oakland this season.

"He hasn't had a chance to pitch much this year and he hurt his ankle last year, " Maddon said. "This guy has got really good stuff - plus-fastball, plus-slider. He's very durable. He's got kind of a nice edge about him when he pitches; I see a very aggressive sort."

RHP Jason Hammel, called up from Triple-A, initially will be used in long relief, but Maddon said with a "couple" of good outings he could get a shot to start.

INTERESTING TIMING: Tim Corcoran was available to pitch if the Rays needed him to Sunday. But by Tuesday, when the Rays had to take someone off the 40-man roster to add Witasick, Corcoran had a right elbow strain and ended up on the 15-day disabled list.

The Rays instead designated Lugo (2-1, 1.84 at Triple-A) for assignment, though they hope to get him though waivers during the 10-day window and keep him in the organization.

The Rays on Sunday night had planned to option Corcoran to Triple-A Durham but held off on making it official as they waited to see if Witasick cleared waivers, and by Tuesday Corcoran was being examined by team orthopedic physician Koco Eaton. By going on the DL, Corcoran continues to get his major-league pay and service time.

"It's seems like there's some discomfort in the elbow, " executive vice president Andrew Friedman said. "We're going to rehab it and hopefully get him back pitching healthy."

UPTON UPDATE: 2B/CF B.J. Upton said he continues to feel better, but Maddon said it's now looking like Thursday or Friday before he will return from a left quad strain.

SIGNING UP: As talks continue with top pick David Price, the Rays signed 12 other selections, led by fifth-round OF Dustin Biell. Others are 3B Greg Sexton (10th round); Cs Stephen Vogt (12th) and John Mollicone (27th); RHPs Kyle Ayers (14th), Michael Southern (15th), Kevin Boggan (19th), Chris Luck (20th), Robert Della Grotta (37th), Jesse Darcy (38th); LHP Julius Dettrich (18th) and 1B Benjamin Humphrey (28th).

MISCELLANY: CF Rocco Baldelli (left hamstring strain), who was 2-for-5 as the DH Tuesday, is likely to stay in extended spring training game until next week. ... 1B Carlos Pena's fourth grand slam was also his 100th career home run. ... To open a Japanese-related art exhibit today 3B Akinori Iwamura will be at Creative Clay (1124 Central Ave. St. Petersburg) at 10:45 a.m. and the Florida Craftsman Gallery (501 Central Ave) at 11:15. ... OF Delmon Young tied OF Carl Crawford with a team-high 14 game-tying or go-ahead RBIs. ... The Rays are 13-8 against 2006 playoff teams; 18-26 against others.