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03/04/07 4:30 PM ET

Minors report: Guzman's glove show

Maddon impressed with prospect's skills at third base

Hot topic: Joel Guzman came to the Devil Rays in the trade that sent Julio Lugo to the Dodgers. After the trade was made, the most compelling conversation about Guzman dealt with his above-average power.

But it has been Guzman's glove that has grabbed the attention of Rays manager Joe Maddon.

"I didn't know he had that kind of actions over at third base," Maddon said. "I'm scouting right now, I'm seeing him for the first time and my scouting background tells me this kid has above average actions. I can't necessarily tell range yet, but he has above-average actions with above average hands."

Maddon surmised that the 6-foot-6, 252-pound Guzman can play any infield position.

"And I guess when it comes down to shortstop, it will come down to where he is size-wise -- the quickness, he can move," Maddon said. "But this kid has really good infield actions. I wasn't aware they were that good."

Maddon also said he was surprised "in a good way" about the configuration of Guzman's body.

"He's in great shape," Maddon said. "He might have been too big in the past. That might have impacted his defense. I think the kid's very focused right now. He's a nice kid. And he's more than I thought. ... You hear all the platitudes in his direction. His has been based on power and a long swing. That's mostly what you hear about this kid.

"I think there are things wrong with his swing, but I don't necessarily consider them wrong. I think he does some things within his swing we can attend to. That was my first impression the other day when I watched him. Have I brought it to his attention? No. I want to watch him."

Guzman will likely begin the season as the third baseman at Triple-A Durham.

On the move: Rays pitching coach Jim Hickey said Andy Sonnanstine's command is the first thing that jumps out at you about him.

"If you do a little paper scouting and you look, he's made every start and pitches into the sixth and seventh inning," Hickey said. "He throws strikes, he doesn't give up base hits and he doesn't walk people. It's important. And he's one of those guys who maybe gets overlooked a lot, because his stuff isn't quite that top-end stuff. But when you do what he's done, for me, [because of his ability to throw strikes], he jumps off the page. More so than some of the other guys who are considered better prospects."

Names in the game: Former Rays outfielder Dave Martinez is in camp as a special instructor. One of his main projects is working with B.J. Upton to help him learn how to play outfield.

"He's a tremendous athlete," Martinez said. "Everybody knows that. I think, really, the only concern we have is line drives right at him. That's a tough ball for anybody. Right now, that's what we've been concentrating on. I think the transition for him will be easy."

Martinez will help out in Minor League camp and later during extended Spring Training.

They're No. 1: Hickey sad he was immediately struck by Jeff Niemann's size and "plus" stuff. Niemann was Tampa Bay's No. pick in the 2004 First-Year Player Draft.

"Two good breaking balls, good fastball -- big downward plan on his fastball -- also seems to be very composed and very professional," Hickey said.

But don't look for Niemann to start the season with the Rays. Hickey brought up the right-hander's 108 Minor League innings and said, "He definitely needs more seasoning."

What they're saying: "Here's a kid that could easily get overlooked in the long haul. He's kind of a quiet kid. He's been around a few years, so all of a sudden you put a kid like that on the back burner. He's the kind of guy that ends up going somewhere else and you end up saying, 'God, why did we miss that?' ... He's the kind of guy, when his sinker is right, it's like, 'I'm throwing this sinker and there's nothing you can do about it. You can hit a ground ball to third, a ground ball to short or hit it off your front foot.'" -- Maddon on Tony Peguero's slider, which he referred to as "nasty"

Bill Chastain is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.