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Harris heads to second in roster shuffle

Brendan Harris took Ben Zobrist's starting SS job earlier this season, but Zobrist's return has now shifted Harris to 2B for the foreseeable future.

By EDUARDO A. ENCINA
Published July 31, 2007


ST. PETERSBURG - Brendan Harris took Ben Zobrist's starting SS job earlier this season, but Zobrist's return has now shifted Harris to 2B for the foreseeable future.

Rays manager Joe Maddon said Harris will be the new starting second baseman, a move he can make after the team traded Ty Wigginton, and Zobrist and utility INF Josh Wilson will share time at SS. Both could also see spot duty at 2B and 3B.

"It's shortstop by committee right now," Maddon said. "We felt it was the appropriate time to go with Zobrist here to just let (Harris) go over there for a while and see what that looks like."

Harris' bat has been a pleasant addition, but in recent weeks his range at SS had diminished, and Maddon has emphasized the need to get him more rest on a regular basis.

"I think I went through a period when I think I was tired in early July," Harris said. "I think I've kind of turned the corner. I think I've gotten some energy back. I can see that maybe they think I'd be more comfortable over there and maybe it's not as demanding and maybe help me put up some numbers."

Harris has made 13 major-league starts at 2B and has played there once since spring training.

"They hadn't made any overtures until today," Harris said. "I was surprised but not taken aback by it. I'm still in the lineup, and that's pretty much what I'm looking for."

WHEELER AND DEALING: Reliever Dan Wheeler, acquired Saturday in the deal that sent Wigginton to Houston, joined the team Monday happy he was dealt to the Rays.

"When I found out I was coming here, I was like, 'Wow, that's pretty good,' " the former Devil Ray and Seminole resident said. "That's the one thing that was driving me a little crazy. Instead of moving back home in the end of September, I get to move back home now."

Wheeler, who began his career with the Rays, pitched 11/3 innings in relief Monday night and allowed only a seeing-eye run-scoring single to Reed Johnson, a run that was charged to starter Andy Sonnanstine, and a walk. It was Wheeler's first appearance for the Rays since June 12, 2001.

MAJOR MINOR MATTER: Triple-A Durham RHP Jeff Niemann (11-5, 3.82), one of the Rays' top pitching prospects, left Monday's start after five pitches as a precaution due to right shoulder fatigue. He will be examined further, but the Rays said "early reports are fairly positive."

DODGING THE RECORDS: Back-to-back wins the past two days have kept the Rays from matching their most losses in a single month. The Rays were 5-21 in June of 2003.

MISCELLANY: INF Josh Wilson is 3-for-4 with three RBIs as a pinch-hitter this season and is batting .341 (14-for-41) since the All-Star break. ... Sonnanstine remained winless in his past nine starts since his lone victory June 10 at Florida. ... Toronto RHP Dustin McGowan's 15-inning scoreless streak ended in the third. ... Demoted reliever RHP Jae Kuk Ryu will resume starting at Durham. ... With Wigginton's departure, the Rays are in search of an emergency catcher. Wilson is the most likely candidate. ... With a short-handed bench Sunday, RHP Edwin Jackson was not only available in the bullpen but also to pinch-run.