Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Jonny Gomes Optioned to Durham Bulls, IF Ben Zobrist Recalled

Infielder Ben Zobrist was recalled from Durham to the Tampa Bay Rays today and Jonny was optioned to The Bulls to create a roster spot.

Zobrist has been on a terror in Durham since he was sent down in July. He was just named International League Player of the Week in recognition of the .583 average he's put up this week, tops in the League by more than 100 points. He had 14 hits (2 homeruns and 6RBIs), a .630 on base average, a .833 slugging percentage and 2 stolen bases. It's mighty hard to argue the decision to bring him up with starting SS Jason Bartlett on a day-to-day basis after Sunday's injury to the index finger on his throwing hand. The Rays sorely need an offensive spark and it would be great to see Zobrist get them going.

Zobie's defense is a far cry from Bartlett's, but the Rays options are limited to 3B Evan Longoria or reserve Willie Aybar. Maddon said he hesitates sliding Evan to SS and interfering with the amazing work he's been doing at third. The Indians pitching yesterday clearly favored a strong 3B so they gave Aybar a shot at short for the first time in his professional career. His play was good enough to make The Days Top Plays on ESPN, but shaky enough, in part due to minor leg cramps during the game, that gambling more than a few games with that lineup is not a strong solution. My guess is that Bartlett's finger needs more than a couple days to heal.

Meanwhile, Jonny has struggled, even with increasingly regular at bats. Durham has always helped him turn it around and a red-hot Jonny Gomes will be just what the team needs in September as they make their play off push with a majority of games on the road. If Crawfords strained hamstring becomes a long term problem, Jonny could be back in the mix if he starts hitting. Jonny says he's "really excited about it" (the chance to play every day in Durham). More on Jonny's reaction from the St. Petersburg Times.

Meanwhile, Rocco Baldelli is still waiting for a decision. Gabe Gross or Willy Aybar are probably the guys on the bubble now unless the team sends Rocco to join Jonny in Durham and battle for a post season spot.

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