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Percival feeling strong, Rays' roster decision pending

Troy Percival, warming up during practice at Tropicana Field, says his mechanics have improved over the past week.

DIRK SHADD | Times

Troy Percival, warming up during practice at Tropicana Field, says his mechanics have improved over the past week.

ST. PETERSBURG — Rays officials were talking a lot Wednesday about whether to add an 11th pitcher to their 25-man roster for the ALCS or stick with the 15 position players they carried in the first round.

If they do make the change, veteran reliever Troy Percival said he is healthy and, after a couple of encouraging instructional league outings, ready to help. So, too, is RHP Edwin Jackson, the 14-game winner who was also dropped from the division series roster.

"Physically I think I was ready (for the first round), but now, mechanically, I'm more ready 'cause I got a chance to go out there and work on what I wanted to work on, which I didn't have time to do before," Percival said.

"I got out in the bullpen, worked with the pitching coach down there, and within 15 pitches … I noticed a distinct difference: throwing the ball where I wanted to, had more life on the ball and had zero effect the next day."

Percival, who led the Rays with 28 saves but had three stints on the DL, was not as sharp during a bullpen session Wednesday, which will add to the discussion.

With LF Carl Crawford showing he was fully healthy, the Rays could drop one of their extra outfielders. Though rookie Fernando Perez was a late callup, his speed and versatility make him more valuable and could make veteran Eric Hinske, who didn't play in the first round, more likely to go.

The 10-man division series pitching staff, including rookie LHP David Price, are expected to remain intact.

INTERESTING MATCHUP: If the series goes six games, and if the Rays stay in rotation, Scott Kazmir would be on the mound and Derryl Cousins behind the plate.

The last time, on June 11 in Anaheim, Kazmir was irate, questioning the veteran umpire's reputation, accusing him of making "makeup" calls and assessing his performance as "unbelievable," "ridiculous" and "amazing." Several times, Kazmir said, "I've never seen anything like that before."

Cousins was dismissive of Kazmir's criticism at the time: "I didn't know he's been around that long. I've got nothing to say. … It won't be the first time or the last time that he says something."

The rest of the umpiring crew includes crew chief Tim McClelland, Sam Holbrook, Brian O'Nora, Brian Gorman and Alfonso Marquez.

REYES RUMBLINGS: Former Rays RHP Al Reyes dropped by the Trop during Tuesday's workout to say hello and wish his former teammates well in the ALCS. Reyes, who saved 26 games for the Rays in 2007, rejected an outright assignment Aug. 18 and signed with the Mets before being released. As he has prepped for winter ball in the Dominican (he leaves Friday), Reyes said he has been watching Tampa Bay every game, is "happy" for their success and hopes to potentially have a chance to play here next year.

"My heart is here," Reyes said. "I was somewhere else. But my heart was here."

BACK IN GEAR: Though manager Joe Maddon said it's still "unlikely" C Shawn Riggans will make the ALCS roster, the rookie is making good progress following right knee surgery and said he's ready for "emergency" duty, if necessary.

Riggans said he took batting practice Wednesday for the first time since the Sept. 10 surgery (infected bursa sac) and plans to get into a catcher's position today to catch a few pitches, with a bullpen session next. But he's still "some days away from sprinting."

"They're gonna play their best nine and put their best 25 on the roster," Riggans said. "If I'm not 100 percent, I'm not the guy for the job."

Joe Smith can be reached at joesmith@sptimes.com.

Percival feeling strong, Rays' roster decision pending 10/09/08 [Last modified: Sunday, October 12, 2008 6:47pm]
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