04/25/07 12:14 AM ET
Notes: High praise for Camp
Reliever working hard to find his rhythm, and it shows
By Chris Girandola / Special to MLB.com
Camp entered the game to start the seventh inning with the Devil Rays leading, 7-6, and he immediately allowed a single to Derek Jeter. But the 31-year-old right-hander got Bobby Abreu to ground into a double play to short and then struck out Rodriguez to end the inning.
"That was huge for Camper," said manager Joe Maddon. "He's been coming back slowly this year, but he's a big part of our bullpen. Last year he was the one guy who really did good work for us when something was going on, and he's capable of getting ground ball, a double play like the one he got yesterday."
Maddon praised Camp for rebounding from a difficult start to the season in which he allowed five runs, four earned, in his first five appearances. In his past five outings, though, Camp has surrendered only two hits with no runs in 4 1/3 innings while striking out four.
"I love what he's doing now," said Maddon. "He's held true the whole year, and he hasn't made excuses. He's continued to work, and last night I saw the sinker really dive. That was the difference. It had some depth to it, not flat. That just shows me he's pitching with a lot more confidence and he's a lot more loose."
Camp said that he struggled at the beginning of the year because he was pitching behind in the count due to being a little out of sync.
"My timing was off, and I ran into a little bit of a rut," said Camp. "I was just trying to work on some things, throw more changeups."
After working with pitching coach Jim Hickey, though, Camp slowly redeveloped the same habits that allowed him to compile a 7-4 record with a 4.68 ERA over a club-record 75 appearances in 2006.
"[Hickey] just talked to me about my approach," said Camp. "A lot of it has just been working on my aggressiveness and timing."
Camp said that he found his rhythm last week at home against the Indians, a game he entered with two outs and the bases loaded. He forced Jason Michaels to ground out on a 2-1 count to end the inning, which he says was a boost to his confidence and his technique.
"That was big for me," he said. "Now, in three nights in a row, I've had a lot of ground balls with a lot of success."
No shift: Maddon hinted at possibly using a Barry Bonds-type shift against the hot-hitting Rodriguez on Tuesday but decided against it with Scott Kazmir on the mound. Kazmir walked the Yankees slugger in the first inning, then forced him into a groundout to short and a groundout to first in his next two appearances. Rodriguez ended the day 0-for-3.
Before the game, Maddon and several Rays remarked at how impressive Rodriquez's performance has been so far.
"He looks really different now," said Maddon. "I always thought he was a good player, but I don't even know who that player is. He's at a point where he's seeing the ball really well. When it's been a strike, he puts the fat part of the bat on it. It's pretty impressive."
Delmon Young went even further.
"He's doing video-game-type stuff," said Young. "I'd be happy with 14 homers at the All-Star break."
Up next: The Rays leave St. Petersburg for a five-game West Coast trip that begins in Anaheim against the Los Angeles Angels on Wednesday at 10:05 p.m ET. Right-hander Edwin Jackson makes his fourth start of the season and his second career start against the Angels. He has no record with a 6.23 ERA in four career appearances against Los Angeles.
Chris Girandola is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.