04/22/07 2:15 PM ET
Notes: Camp looking for consistency
Reliever says he needs to step up in wake of solid outing
By Bill Chastain / MLB.com
Camp entered the game in the eighth with two outs and the bases loaded and retired Jason Michaels on a fielder's choice, a key play in the Rays' 6-5 win over Cleveland.
"Camper needed something to hold onto, and I think he got it last night," Rays manager Joe Maddon said Sunday.
Camp mentioned that there is a need for himself and all of the relievers to get on the stick.
"They're going to need me down there, so I've got to get right," Camp said. "Our biggest trouble's been the sixth and seventh innings, and we can't rely on [Brian] Stokes and [Juan] Salas to pitch every game of the year in the sixth or seventh inning. Hopefully, I can play that role."
Maddon depended on Camp a great deal in 2006, when the right-hander made 75 appearances and recorded a 4.68 ERA. His sinker is his out pitch and a nice weapon to have when a double play is needed.
"The fact that he's a ground-ball pitcher, and if he comes in with people on base, a double play is in order," Maddon said. "That's what I'd like to see him do, come in during the course of an inning and put [an opponent's threat] out."
B.J. experiment working: Entering Sunday's game against the Indians, B.J. Upton was hitting .340 with two home runs and 10 RBIs. That was quite a contrast to Upton's standing heading into Spring Training, when the Rays declared they planned to move him around to different positions to try to get him to relax. In addition, Upton was working to try to get the lower half of his body more involved in his swing.
Maddon said Upton has continued to move toward having his lower half more involved.
"The ball is just coming off the bat a lot hotter," Maddon said. "I think it's a combination of his lower half, I think he's working his hands better. I think his confidence is coming back. There are a lot of factors involved in this.
"But he does need to have better lower-half involvement. And for that matter, you look at him defensively and the bottom half is working better on defense also. I think a lot of times, for me as a young scout, if a player's bottom half works similarly both offensively and defensively, I think he's playing better defense now because he's getting better lower-half involvement also. I don't think we're anywhere near the finished product with him, but again he's got a snap coming off the bat."
While the season still is young, Maddon conceded the Rays are pleased with what Upton has done.
"The biggest concern from last year going into this year was how he was thinking and how he was approaching the day," Maddon said. "Whether or not he had confidence to play. Whether or not he would hit like he had in the past. To this point, obviously, it's gone pretty well. [But] it is a long year.
"And the other part of the difference I've seen with B.J. ... his focus is better. He's absorbing better. There's a look about him that makes me believe he's going to be able to sustain this over the year."
Aki faces an old adversary: Kei Igawa will be on the mound for the Yankees on Monday night, meaning Rays third baseman Akinori Iwamura will have the chance to rekindle an old rivalry against his Japanese foe.
Iwamura said he has not hit a home run against Igawa since 2003, but he's had "a lot of hits."
Iwamura said Igawa "has some style" and that his fastball and slider are his bread and butter. Iwamura plans to give his teammates a scouting report on the left-hander prior to Monday's game. But Iwamura doesn't want to give them too much information, because of the success they are having at the plate so far in the season.
Up next: The Rays host the Yankees at 7:10 p.m. ET Monday in the first game of a two-game series at Tropicana Field. Left-hander Casey Fossum will start for the Rays.
Bill Chastain is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.