04/10/07 8:50 PM ET
Notes: Salas, Stokes are Rays' mules
Young pitchers taking bullpen right of passage in stride
By Bill Chastain / MLB.com
With the Devil Rays, tradition calls for these duties to be delegated each season to the member of the bullpen with the least seniority, which, this year, means the responsibility falls on Brian Stokes and Juan Salas.
Each pitcher was outfitted with a backpack to carry enough snacks to the bullpen to last throughout the game. Shawn Camp purchased the packs this year at a Target store; Stokes was issued a green "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle" pack while Salas fashions a pink and purple "My Beautiful Pony" pack.
Camp "was cheap, he bought the $19.99 bags," said Ruddy Lugo, who bore the brunt of the duty last season.
"We just want candy," Camp said. "Or like in New York, we needed the hand warmers a lot. We made sure we told them that and they got everything done. They've done a good job so far."
Stokes, who has two days of seniority on Salas, got to choose between having the duties at home or on the road and chose home.
"I lucked out on that," Stokes said. "It's an easier walk at home. Last year I had it at Yankee Stadium and I got to walk all the way across the stadium with the Jumbotron zooming in on me."
Stokes takes his duties seriously.
"I try to put candy in there, sunflower seeds, drinks," Stokes said. "I take requests. Like Gary Glover, he likes Gatorade Energy Bars. I get a couple of those for him. I try to please everybody."
But there are complications this season in the form of a new emphasis on nutrition within the clubhouse. Translation: All junk food is gone.
However, a solution to that problem has presented itself when the Rays are on the road. The pitchers have found ways to get around the junk food ban.
"We kind of lucked out," Stokes said. "We stockpiled them on the road trip. Got all of our candy bars there and just transferred them over to my bag. It's not too tough, I have a bag to hide them in."
Rays manager Joe Maddon smiled when asked about the contents of the bullpen bags.
"I'm not supposed to know that kind of stuff," Maddon said. "That's one of those things like your dad's not supposed to know."
So who is better at packing the snacks, Stokes or Salas?
"I've got to go with Ruddy," Camp said. "It's hard to follow up in Ruddy's footsteps. He's a natural. He had anything from Tylenol, to Morning Relief, to Sudafed. I think Salas has been strictly a seeds and chocolate kind of guy."
Harris in the outfield: Long before the Rays took the field for batting practice Tuesday, utility man Brendan Harris could be seen taking fly balls alongside Jonny Gomes in left field.
Harris said he doesn't take fly balls too often.
"I did it a little bit in Spring Training," said Harris, who is used primarily at shortstop and second base. "Jonny was taking some, so I kind of jumped in."
The Rays are deep in the outfield, with Carl Crawford, Delmon Young, Rocco Baldelli, Ty Wigginton, Gomes and B.J. Upton all available for duty. But Harris wants to be ready to play if needed. He also likes to work out at first base some, too. He draws the line when "emergency catcher" is mentioned.
"Don't use those words," Harris said. "Blasphemy."
Near no-no: Mitch Talbot won his Triple-A Durham debut Monday night. The right-hander tossed six scoreless innings and allowed no hits before Steve Andrade took over and pitched a hitless seventh. Pawtucket singled off Andrade in the eighth, but scored no runs. Chad Orvella finished off the Bulls' 5-0 win with a scoreless ninth. Of note: Jorge Cantu made his first start at first base in the game.
The good and the bad:
First the good news:
The Rays' 10 home runs after six games are the most in team history at the same point of the season, and they are tied for the Major League lead with the Brewers. Also, the team's nine stolen bases rank first in the American League and tie them with the Reds for tops in the Major Leagues. On defense, the team's .995 fielding percentage leads the Major Leagues.
And the bad news ...
The Rays 7.27 ERA is the highest in club history after six games and a run and a half higher than the next closest club, the Nationals, at 5.86. And on offense, the team has outscored opponents 21-20 through five innings but has been outscored 21-6 in innings six through eight.
Next up: The Rays wrap up their three-game series against the Rangers with an 8:05 ET contest Wednesday night at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington. Right-hander James Shields will start for the Rays and will be opposed by right-hander Robinson Tejeda.
Bill Chastain is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.