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07/29/07 8:00 PM ET
Notes: Zobrist recalled from Durham
Infielder gets another shot in wake of Wiggington trade
By Bill Chastain / MLB.com
ST. PETERSBURG -- In the aftermath of Saturday's trade that sent Ty Wigginton to the Astros for right-hander Dan Wheeler, the Rays recalled shortstop Ben Zobrist. Zobrist, 25, is in his second tour of duty with the Rays. He began the season as the starting shortstop, but he hit just .159 with one home run and six RBIs, resulting in his losing the job to Brendan Harris. The Rays optioned Zobrist to Triple-A Durham on May 11 when Josh Wilson was claimed off waivers. Zobrist appeared in 60 games with the Bulls and hit .273 with 14 doubles, seven home runs, and 22 RBIs. "I'm glad I was down in Durham, got a chance to work some things out," Zobrist said. "And I really think I relaxed at the plate a lot more and just became, really, a better overall hitter, taking better swings at the ball. So I'm ready. Let's do it." Looking at Zobrist's numbers at Durham, Rays manager Joe Maddon said he liked the fact he had a .399 on-base percentage and the fact he drew more walks (43) than strikeouts (38). "It's been a hard couple of months," Zobrist said. "When things don't work out exactly the way you want them to, it's not the easiest thing to deal with. You just go out there and keep playing and working hard. For me, I had to back off my work a little bit since I was down there and things have started to fall into place a little better." Maddon plans to use Zobrist "at shortstop and maybe pop him at the other positions, too."
Maddon said Zobrist will play some second and third, but primarily shortstop.He will not, however, unseat Harris as the starter. Maddon said he planned to talk to Harris -- as well as Zobrist -- about the situation. With Wigginton gone, the middle-infield rotation includes Harris, Zobrist and Wilson. Wheeler dealer: Rays pitching coach Jim Hickey coached Wheeler when Hickey served as the Astros pitching coach, and he had nothing but praise for Wheeler, who is expected to be ready for action on Monday night against the Blue Jays. "What we're getting is a very solid, very capable late-in-the-game pitcher who can come in the eighth or ninth inning," Wheeler said. "A guy who has come through a couple of pennant races, a couple of rounds of the playoffs and the World Series, a guy who is professional and somebody who I think will be a tremendous asset for the team." The acquisition of Wheeler, 29, should indeed help shore up the Rays' much-maligned bullpen. The veteran right-hander pitched for the Rays from 1999-2001. In nine Major League seasons, Wheeler has a 12-21 record with a 3.99 ERA and 25 saves in 302 games. This season he is 1-4 with a 5.07 ERA and 11 saves in 45 appearances. Wheeler will be the 23rd pitcher used by the Rays this season and fourth member of the bullpen to join the club in the last week (also joining the club were right-handers Grant Balfour, Scott Dohmann and Juan Salas). The most pitchers the Rays have used in one season is 25, which they did last season. C.C. still sore: Left-fielder Carl Crawford's right wrist was still sore enough to prevent him from starting on Sunday against the Red Sox, though he did play defense in the bottom of the ninth. Despite Sunday's appearance, his status remains in limbo. "It's the worst my wrist ever hurt," Crawford said. Crawford has not hit since hurting his wrist while trying to make a diving catch on Friday night against the Red Sox. "I'm just leaving it alone," Crawford said. "It hurts just to grip the bat." Asked if he thought he would need to go on the DL, Crawford answered: "I don't think so." Crawford said he will have an MRI on Monday, which leaves his status as day-to-day. Ryu to Durham: Right-hander Jae Kuk Ryu was optioned to Durham after Sunday's win to clear space on the roster for Wheeler. Ryu has had two stints with the Rays this season, posting a 1-2 record with a 7.33 ERA in 17 appearances. Up next: The Rays will begin a three-game series against the Blue Jays on Monday night in a 7:10 ET contest at Tropicana Field. Right-hander Andy Sonnanstine will start for the Rays, and he will be opposed by right-hander Dustin McGowan.
Bill Chastain is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.