By JOHN ROMANO
© St. Petersburg Times, published September 4, 2000
ST. PETERSBURG -- The continuing shoulder problems of Esteban Yan have left the bullpen short-handed and could force the Devil Rays to dip into the minor leagues again.
Cory Lidle gave the Rays three innings of relief on Sunday, the third time in six days that he has pitched 22/3 innings or more.
"Cory Lidle has thrown close to 150 pitches in the last six or seven days and that's a lot," manager Larry Rothschild said. "We're going to look at (bringing up a minor-leaguer). I need pitching and I think we'll get some."
Since rosters are expanded in September, the Rays could bring up Cedrick Bowers or Travis Harper without having to subtract from the major-league club because those pitchers already are on the 40-man roster.
If the Rays bring up someone who is not on the 40-man roster -- such as Mickey Callaway -- they would have to release a player to make room. They released Billy Taylor on Friday to promote left-hander Trevor Enders, and Dave Eiland could be in a similar situation as a veteran who has struggled recently.
Yan, who has pitched a career-high 126 innings this season, has not been in a game for more than a week because of shoulder fatigue. He was expected to be available last weekend, but did not show enough improvement. With Yan out, the Rays have been playing with five relievers, instead of the usual six.
"It's taking longer than I expected," Rothschild said of Yan's injury. "We've got to make sure he is right."
RECORD DEAL: Albie Lopez has a chance to make Devil Rays history today.
Lopez will be going for his 22nd victory with the Rays, which would break the franchise record he shares with Rolando Arrojo.
"I know about it, but I haven't spent too much time thinking about it," Lopez said. "It'd be nice while it lasted, but it's not like I'm that far ahead of some other guys."
The fact that the record could come in Cleveland holds no special significance for Lopez. He spent seven years in Cleveland's farm system and never was given an extended opportunity to make it as a starting pitcher.
Since joining the Rays rotation this season, Lopez has gone 9-5, and he has the third-best ERA in the American League.
"I've got nothing to prove in Cleveland," Lopez said. "In fact, I'm glad they let me go. It gave me the chance to come here and get an opportunity."
BRYAN'S BLISTER: A blister on his middle finger forced Bryan Rekar out of Saturday's game in the sixth inning, but Rothschild does not expect it to be a problem for his next scheduled start on Thursday in Cleveland.
Rekar has had problems with blisters at various times this season and Rothschild said they have used every treatment possible.
"It's just a problem that creeps up now and then," Rothschild said. "In the last inning it popped and they usually heal pretty quick after that."
Rekar declined comment.
FIRST-TIMER: Damian Rolls made his major-league debut Sunday, striking out as a pinch-hitter in the ninth inning. Rolls was activated from the disabled list Friday after missing the season while rehabbing from shoulder surgery.
"I'm glad to get it out of the way, but I wish I had that first pitch back," Rolls said. "It was a pitch I could handle and I hit it straight back. That was the one I missed."
CHANGE OF SCENERY: The Rays had success moving Greg Vaughn down in the lineup Saturday, so they moved Bobby Smith up to No. 2 on Sunday. Smith entered the game in an 8-for-49 slump.
"We wanted to put him in a position where maybe he could get some pitches to hit and we'll see how that works," Rothschild said. "Sometimes moving a guy can help get him going like Vaughn (Saturday)."
It did not work with Smith on Sunday. He went 0-for-4 with two strikeouts and left four men on base.