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Rocco might join club on road
By MARC TOPKIN, Times Staff Writer
Published September 10, 2007
ST. PETERSBURG — The Devil Rays will add a new face today, and may soon see an old one, too. Jorge Velandia is being called up from Triple-A Durham to join the Rays in Boston tonight to provide much-needed middle infield depth, though he’ll leave the Bulls without their starting shortstop as they open the International League championship series on Tuesday.
And though officials said no final decision had been made, there are plans for Rocco Baldelli to possibly rejoin the Rays — at least to work out with the team — sometime on the 10-day, three-city road trip. Clubhouse staff packed Baldelli’s equipment bag after Sunday’s game and included it with the outgoing cargo, though he was not on the team flight to Boston.
Baldelli has been out since straining a left hamstring in mid May and has twice had to shut down rehab assignments. There has been a mystery about his condition and overall health since the Rays said Aug. 27 he underwent a “series of tests” but have not provided any updates. Manager Joe Maddon said recently Baldelli could play as a DH over the final weeks.
Velandia, 32, has major-league experience with the Padres, A’s and Mets and gives the Rays the chance to rest shortstop Josh Wilson and/or 2B Brendan Harris, and to make more in-game moves. Velandia, a good-glove, weak-bat type, hit .249 in 120 games for the Bulls and was 0-for-9 in three playoff games.
RECORD CHASERS: In extending his team-record home run total to 38, 1B Carlos Pena broke the mark for homers at Tropicana Field with his 19th. … Pena’s 106 RBIs match Fred McGriff for third most in franchise history; Jorge Cantu had a record 117 in 2005. … The Rays’ eighth back-to-back homers are their most in a season. … James Shields’ 207 innings pitched are the second most in Rays history; Tanyon Sturtze had 224 in 2002.
ROUGH ROAD: The Rays left on a 10-games-in-10-days trip to face contenders and hostile crowds in Boston, Seattle and Anaheim, and Maddon couldn’t be more thrilled about it. “This is the best way for us to conclude the season, against these people bringing out the best in us,” he said. “Playing this level of competition, having to go into the stadiums we go into next where they’re all going to be packed and it’s going to mean something to everybody, I’m really excited about it. I think it’s great.”
NOT-SO-MINOR MATTERS: Class A Columbus opens the best-of-five South Atlantic League championship tonight at West Virginia (Brewers) with 18-game winner Heath Rollins on the mound, followed by second-round draft pick Will Kline in Game 2 and Jeremy Hellickson in Game 3. … John Jaso and Erold Andrus had three-run homers and Reid Brignac reached base five times as Double-A Montgomery routed Mississippi (Braves) 12-5 to advance to the Southern League championship. … Triple-A Durham opens the best-of-five International League championship at home Tuesday against Richmond (Braves) with J.P. Howell on the mound, followed by Jeff Niemann in Game 2 and Jae Seo in Game 3.
MISCELLANY: After being the DH Sunday, B.J. Upton (bruised left ankle) is expected back in centerfield tonight. … In addition to the Cubs, the Rays’ 2008 interleague guests are the Astros and Marlins. … Having drawn 1,220,212 fans (a major-league low average of 16,269), the Rays need another 148,739 over their final six home games (an average of 24,790) to surpass last season’s 1,368,950. … The Rays won four straight series for the first time since winning six in June 2004.
How the Rays stand in avoiding the worst record in the majors: