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Fifty years ago, they were screwed-up kids sent to the Florida School for Boys to be straightened out. But now they are screwed-up men, scarred by the whippings they endured. Read the story and see a video and portrait gallery.
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A loss to hang their heads over
The Rays do little right in a thrashing against the A's.
By MARC TOPKIN, Times Staff Writer
Published August 24, 2007
ST. PETERSBURG - At least Julianna Zobrist, wife of injured infielder Ben Zobrist, sang a nice national anthem. Because after that, Thursday night quickly became a lost cause - and an ugly 12-2 loss - for the Devil Rays.
They got a brutal start from Jason Hammel, who struggled through three innings and continues to look like more of a question than an answer. They got haunted by another former teammate, as Oakland's Chad Gaudin held them to one run over seven innings. They got bad news from the minor leagues, with outfielder Rocco Baldelli scratched from a rehab start because of leg soreness.
Then it got more weird, a noncompetitive game turning edgy as Tampa Bay's Carlos Pena and Oakland's J.J. Furmaniak were hit by pitches, and A's reliever Santiago Casilla was ejected for throwing at Brendan Harris' head.
And the recently anemic Rays hitters - a .198 average and 31 runs one more than Texas scored Wednesday in one game in their past 13 games - ended the night with an unusual 10-minute meeting in the batting cage with hitting coach Steve Henderson, filing into the clubhouse as pitchers were showered, dressed and leaving.
"He did most of the talking," Harris said. "It's just gone on too long. We've got to start putting it together. That's all there is to it. We've got to start figuring it out, concentrate a little bit more."
Manager Joe Maddon said the Rays (48-79) need to get back to what they were doing earlier.
"We've seen some good pitching, but we've got to continue to grind it out," he said. "We just haven't swung the bats as well as we had been. It happens to every team - we've just got to figure our way out of this thing."
Some of the Rays tried to figure out just what Casilla was doing, coming in to start the ninth - with another reliever, former Ray Ruddy Lugo, curiously warming up - and throwing the first pitch at Harris.
As Maddon claimed of Juan Salas' first pitch that hit Furmaniak in the top of the inning, A's manager Bob Geren said Casilla's pitch "just got away."
Harris didn't remotely buy it: "I figured they might get somebody, but I didn't think he'd throw at my head first pitch coming out of the pen and be that obvious about it."
The Rays had larger problems.
As much as Edwin Jackson's success is a testament to faith and patience in young pitchers, Hammel has not shown the same promise. The 24-year-old has now made 16 major-league starts (seven this season), and not only is he winless, he has never left with a lead.
Of the 18 batters he faced Thursday, 10 reached base - five on hits, including Jack Cust's 22nd homer, and five on walks. "You've got to throw strikes," Hammel said. "It's simple."
Actually, it's not. The Rays have been extensively reworking Hammel's mechanics - enough that he said he's thinking too much - and Maddon admitted "it might be a little bit of an overload from us to him."
There was nothing complex about Gaudin, who was traded to Toronto in December 2004 for backup catcher Kevin Cash in a deal that is often underrated among former GM Chuck LaMar's worst. Gaudin kept the ball down, and that was good enough on a night when the Rays looked plenty bad.
Marc Topkin can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org View his blog at blogs.tampabay.com/rays.