By JOHN ROMANO and MIKE READLING
© St. Petersburg Times, published May 8, 2001
ST. PETERSBURG -- His debut as a relief pitcher could be classified as a disaster. And there is a chance he soon could end up in Triple A. But the Devil Rays insist they are not giving up on Ryan Rupe.
Rupe was one of the top rookies in the American League in 1999 when he became the Rays' first farmhand to the reach the majors and went 8-9 with a 4.55 ERA. Since then, Rupe has been much less effective. His record is 7-9, but his ERA has ballooned to 7.06 for 2000-01.
Rupe, 26, lost his spot in the starting rotation last week and could be in danger of losing his spot on the roster.
The Rays have to decide whether it is in the best interest of Rupe, and the club, to have him work through his problems in the Triple-A Durham rotation or the Tampa Bay bullpen.
"Every pitcher wants to stay in the majors and I'm sure Ryan is no different," general manager Chuck LaMar said. "I understand that completely. He's still a young pitcher and we think he still has the ability to be a fine major-league starter. We just have to start seeing some of that stuff we know he has."
Rupe swapped places with Tanyon Sturtze last week and now is a late-inning setup man for the first time in his career. He came in Sunday with the bases loaded and got knocked around by the Indians, giving up seven hits and six runs in one inning.
Rupe had shoulder and circulation problems that cut last season short and may have had an impact on his performance, but the Rays say he seems to be physically sound. Nonetheless, his fastball has dropped from 93-94 mph two years ago to the 90-91 mph range.
"The velocity has fallen off, he seems to have lost the feel for his changeup, even though he throws some great ones at times, and his slider has not been as sharp," LaMar said. "I wish I could tell you it was physical or mechanical, but we don't know. We've reviewed tapes. He just seems to have fallen into some bad habits."
Wilson Alvarez is scheduled to throw in another extended spring training game today in Dunedin. Alvarez has looked sharp, but he needs a lot of work against more advanced hitters. He likely will begin a 30-day minor league rehab in Double A or Triple A in the next 10-15 days.
MINOR MATTER: Along with battling the flu, Rays prospect Josh Hamilton has pulled a muscle in his back. Hamilton has missed eight games and likely will sit out a few more this week for Double-A Orlando.
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