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Pitching carousel takes another spin

By JOHN ROMANO and MARC TOPKIN

© St. Petersburg Times,
published June 22, 2001


ST. PETERSBURG -- Most teams call the bullpen when they have a need for a relief pitcher. The Devil Rays call Durham, N.C.

Continuing their ever-evolving search for relievers, the Rays promoted rookies Jesus Colome and Victor Zambrano on Thursday, designated Rusty Meacham for assignment and optioned Jeff Wallace to Triple-A Durham.

Colome and Zambrano become the 12th and 13th pitchers to have been on the Durham-Tampa Bay shuttle this season.

The moves came less than 24 hours after Tampa Bay relievers bombed in the eighth inning of an 8-2 loss to the Red Sox on Wednesday.

"At worst, it doesn't work and we don't lose anything," manager Hal McRae said. "It's an opportunity to give somebody else a chance. If it doesn't work, it doesn't work. What has worked?"

Zambrano, 25, is the first player to make the majors from the Rays first minicamp on June 3-14, 1996 at Huggins-Stengel Complex.

Colome, 21, is one of the Rays top pitching prospects. Acquired from Oakland in a deal for Jim Mecir last summer, Colome has hit 100 mph on radar guns. He began this season on the disabled list with a hamstring pull and struggled since he was activated, going 0-3 with an 8.03 ERA.

"They're here because of their stuff, not because they were the hottest pitchers," McRae said. "We've already gotten the hot guys. Now it's time to give the stuff guys a chance."

Zambrano was the closer at Durham, recording 12 saves. He gave up two runs in one inning Thursday.

Because of weather problems, Zambrano and Colome were late arriving to the Tampa Bay area on Thursday. They reached the bullpen around the fifth inning.

OUTTA HERE: Before most of their teammates had arrived Thursday, Wallace and Meacham had packed and were leaving Tropicana Field.

Wallace, who had a 0.93 ERA in 15 relief appearances, appeared stunned by his demotion.

"I guess they don't think I was helping the team or something, I don't know," Wallace said. "I had a 0.90 ERA and I'm still not getting the job done? That's something I just don't understand. Maybe they're seeing it from a different view but I don't understand it."

Wallace pitched mostly in mop-up roles with the Rays. McRae said Wallace had thrown well, but this was simply a chance to see some pitchers who might be able to help in the later innings.

Meacham was one of the team's top setup men in April, but slumped in recent weeks. He was 1-3 with a 5.60 ERA in 24 games.

"I don't want to talk," Meacham said, as he carried his guitars out of the clubhouse. "They'll tell you why."

BOX OFFICE BUSINESS: The Rays have sold about 20,000 tickets for tonight's series opener against the Yankees. The first 15,000 fans will receive a Fred McGriff bobblehead doll. The gates open at 5:15.

DRAFT NEWS: Talks between scouting director Dan Jennings and Bo McKinnis, the agent for first-round draft pick Dewon Brazelton, continue to progress, with the possibility of a guaranteed September major-league call-up as part of the negotiations.

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