tampabay.com

Versatile Wilson improves his stock

INF Josh Wilson looked like a short-term replacement when the Rays claimed him off waivers from the Nationals in early May.

By MARC TOPKIN
Published June 27, 2007


ST. PETERSBURG - INF Josh Wilson looked like a short-term replacement when the Rays claimed him off waivers from the Nationals in early May.

But he may have played his way into their long-term plans.

Wilson, 26, made a third consecutive start Tuesday, going 1-for-3 with a highlight-reel play at shortstop, and is in line for more frequent opportunities.

"From a physical, mechanical perspective, he's very sound, " manager Joe Maddon said. "As a fundamentalist, he's got great bunting technique, he knows how to move runners, he plays the game well and right.

"So the offensive part, I think there's more to it than people have given him credit for. The defensive side, I heard nothing but great things, and we're seeing a little bit of that right now."

Wilson had started five games at second base and five at third, but Tuesday's was his first at shortstop, his natural position. Maddon gave starter Brendan Harris the night off and will do so more often, saying that playing Harris seven days a week would "absolutely devastate him" by September.

Wilson welcomes the opportunities: "Hopefully the last couple days have shown Joe that he can have a little more confidence in me and know that if something happens he can stick me in there and I'll do well for him."

POSTGAME ACTION: After an 0-for-4 that included a popout with a man on second and a strikeout with the bases loaded, 3B Akinori Iwamura spent 30 minutes in the batting cage. "Just frustration, " he said.

IF THERE'S A WILL: The Rays may not have gotten far in talks with No. 1 overall draft pick LHP David Price of Vanderbilt, but second-round pick RHP Will Kline, who signed and worked out at the Trop on Tuesday, has.

"He called me (Monday) and we had a pretty good conversation just talking things over, and I was telling him how honored and thrilled I am to finally be in the same uniform with him because I know how fun it's not to be against him, " said Kline, who pitched for Ole Miss.

Price outdueled Kline in the SEC opener, then made a huge impression by coming over to congratulate Kline on his effort. "It meant a lot at the time, and even more now, " Kline said. "I wanted to be his teammate then, but even more now. We're thrilled and we're excited and we're ready to go."

Kline, honored and awed to be at the Trop, will join Class A Columbus on Thursday. "I feel like I'm an unpolished tool ready to be polished, " Kline said, "and that's what this pro career is all about - development and trying to max out my ability."

UPTON UPDATE: 2B B.J. Upton, out since June 8 with a strained left quad, is expected to work out with Class A Vero Beach tonight in Tampa, then play in games Thursday and Friday and possibly rejoin the Rays in Cleveland on Saturday.

STARRY EYES: With All-Star online voting at devilrays.com ending Thursday, Upton is fifth among AL second basemen with a Rays-high 490, 389 votes and LF Carl Crawford is 14th among outfielders with 434, 507.

MISCELLANY: Delmon Young extended his hitting streak to 11 games, one shy of his career high. ... The Rays' 92 homers are their most ever after 75 games. ... Prospect RHP Wade Davis allowed two runs over 51/3 innings in his second start for Montgomery since being promoted from Class A. ... Since being demoted to Triple-A Durham, RHP Chad Orvella has allowed one hit over seven scoreless appearances and has four saves.