By MIKE READLING
© St. Petersburg Times,
published July 25, 2001
When the Rays signed Bobby Seay in 1996 and handed him a $3-million bonus, they envisioned a pitcher who would emerge from the farm system to be one of the first key contributors to the big-league team.
By now, they figured, Seay would be in the Rays rotation, and the 1996 bidding war for the 18-year-old free agent would prove to have been well worth winning. It hasn't exactly worked out that way.
When Seay pitched seven innings Thursday night against Chattanooga, allowing four runs on seven hits while walking and striking out five, it marked his first win since Aug. 30. It also marked what Seay and the organization hope is a positive turn in a career that has seen too many negatives.
In his five seasons, Seay has appeared on the disabled list six times. There has been a stress fracture in his foot, elbow soreness and oblique strains. The latest injury was a strained left index finger sustained while pitching for Double-A Orlando on May 8, which shelved him for almost two months.
He has pitched four times since returning June 30 (one relief appearance), allowing 15 runs on 25 hits in 17 1/3 innings while striking out 10 and walking seven. For the season, Seay, who was scheduled to pitch Tuesday night, is 1-5 with a 6.35 ERA. When he's not injured, Seay looks like he might be the star upon the Rays made their wish.
Last year was his first injury-free season and he set career bests in starts (24), wins (8), ERA (3.88), innings (1321/3) and strikeouts (106) at Orlando. The 6-foot-2 lefty led the O-Rays in wins, starts and innings and tied with Travis Phelps for the lead in strikeouts.
Seay, 23, was named to the Southern League All-Star team and did not surrender a home run to a left-handed hitter all year.
Last fall he was a member of the gold medal-winning U.S. Olympic team, retiring the two batters he faced.
ON THE MEND (AGAIN): Top prospect Josh Hamilton has missed the past week with soreness in his quadriceps after playing three straight games, including an appearance in rightfield and a home run July 17 for Charleston. Hamilton, who has played four games since April 29, has missed most of the season with back inflammation and leg soreness.
SORE TOE: Toe Nash has missed the past week and a half with a minor knee injury. Nash, who is listed as day-to-day and is not on the disabled list, is hitting .212 with Class A Princeton. He has three home runs, 11 RBI and 31 strikeouts in 66 at-bats.
MOVIN' ON UP: Bakersfield closer Brandon Backe was promoted Monday to Orlando. He was 1-0 with a 1.09 ERA and three saves in 24 2/3 innings, walking eight and striking out 33.
GOIN' DOWN: Blaze starting pitcher Neal Frendling was placed on the disabled list with an elbow injury, retroactive to Friday. Frendling recovered from a 1-4 start to post a 6-8 record with a 4.58 ERA in 20 games and 107 strikeouts in 112 innings.
WILD TIMES: Paul Wilder, the Rays first draft pick (29th overall in 1996) who has played 13 games this season, is listed as day-to-day and could play during the Blaze's homestand, which concludes Monday. Wilder has yet to have an injury-free season.
JUST LOOKING: Matt Montgomery, a free-agent pitcher who spent the past four years in the Dodgers system, worked out before the Bakersfield game Monday but has not been signed. Montgomery, the team's 22nd-round pick in 1997, is a 6-4 righty with an 18-20 overall record and a 3.20 ERA. He has pitched as high as Triple-A Albuquerque.