tampabay.com

Sixth starter an option to ease workloads

By EDUARDO A. ENCINA
Published August 21, 2007


ST. PETERSBURG - As the Devil Rays plan how many players to call up when rosters expand Sept. 1, one option they are considering is going to a six-man pitching staff.

Concerned with the lofty pitch counts of Scott Kazmir and James Shields, the Rays might add a sixth starter to limit the starts their two young front-line pitchers make in the season's final month. Both are projected to exceed the 20 percent increase of pitches from last season that the organization desires.

Manager Joe Maddon said options for the sixth starter could be pitchers who have already been here (Jae Seo, J.P. Howell, Jae Kuk Ryu), but it could also mark the debuts of top prospects Jeff Niemann or Mitch Talbot. But that would only be if the Rays believed the prospects were ready, Maddon said.

Other than that, don't expect too many additions when rosters expand. Because the Rays are already working with a 13-man pitching staff, expect no more than two additional relievers, Maddon said, and maybe a utility infielder (Durham 2B Elliot Johnson is the only other middle infielder on the 40-man roster).

"We don't need a whole lot of folks up here right now," Maddon said. "We have a young group that needs to continue to play. We're playing to win and we're playing against a lot of contending teams and we set it up to win, so I don't anticipate a whole bunch of people showing up."

BREAKING GROUND: Maddon was impressed by the renovation renditions of Charlotte Sports Park, which were released at a groundbreaking in Port Charlotte Monday morning.

The renovation, which will include the stadium field, a major-league practice field and four minor-league practice fields, will keep all players and staff on the same site. The Rays currently bus players and coaches from Progress Energy Park to the Naimoli Complex for workouts during the exhibition season.

Port Charlotte will be the Rays' spring home starting in 2009.

"I think it's a great move and it's a big move for the organization," Maddon said. "When you're attempting to homogenize your fundamentals and your teaching concepts, it's so important to have everybody together."

ROCCO BACK ON FIELD: In his first rehab game at Class A Vero Beach, Rocco Baldelli was 0-for-2 with a walk and run scored as the team's DH. He flied out to center in his first at-bat, walked in the third inning and scored on three consecutive hits, then flied out to center in his third at-bat in the fourth.

MISCELLANY: Mike Lowell's homer broke Kazmir's streak of 61 homerless innings. ... Newcomer Joel Guzman took ground balls at second base before Monday's game. ... Rays RF Delmon Young is 0-for-12 in his career against Tim Wakefield. ... Former Ray Jorge Cantu was recalled by the Reds after they traded Jeff Conine to the Mets. In 24 games at Triple-A Louisville, Cantu hit .309 with two homers and 13 RBIs. ... The announced crowd of 16,843 was the smallest the Red Sox had played in front of all season.