Tampa Bay Rays starter Matt Garza unsure of effects of long layoff

BALTIMORE — Manager Joe Maddon and pitching coach Jim Hickey insist that RHP Matt Garza won't be affected by the nine-day layoff between starts when he takes the mound tonight.

But Garza said he won't know for sure until he gets out there.

"We'll find out; I can't really say anything now," Garza said. "Throwing in the bullpen compared to throwing live is a lot different. My body feels fine, feels fresh. We'll just see how it feels out there."

There are typically two concerns when a starter, who usually has four days between games, has a longer layoff, Hickey said: the disruption in routine; and the sense of "feeling stronger than normal, so he thinks he'll be able to throw harder than normal, and maybe he overdoes it."

Garza has made two previous big-league starts after long layoffs. In 2007, he had 10 days off in July after being called up by the Twins and threw seven strong innings. Last year, he had seven days off around the All-Star break and won his next start, allowing three runs over five innings, though walking five.

Garza said he was "shocked" when the Rays told him he'd be bumped to the back end of the rotation, primarily for extra rest after a busy prebreak week. He made it clear to Maddon and Hickey he wasn't happy about it — "Raising some hell," Hickey said — though he cooled off after hearing their explanation.

Garza tends to run a bit on the hyper side under normal circumstances, so Maddon said the extended layoff might have been tougher mentally.

"I don't know how many video games he's done, or how many movies he's watched, how many laps he's paced, how many times he's run around the block," he said. "I've been watching him the last couple days; he seems to be in a good spot. He looks to be very much at ease. And I believe he's going to pitch pretty good."

Official business: LHP David Price is eager for the opportunity to meet first lady Michelle Obama today as part of a joint White House/MLB/players union initiative to combat childhood obesity.

RHP James Shields and INF Sean Rodriguez are also participating as the players will stage a youth clinic. "It's going to be cool; I'm excited about it," Price said. "And getting to meet her will be good experience."

PAIN GAIN: RHP Dan Wheeler's availability will be determined today after he was struck on the right foot in the ninth. X-rays were negative, but he has at least a bruise.

C.C. report: Carl Crawford was back in leftfield Monday and is scheduled to be there again tonight and Wednesday. Maddon said he'll wait to make weekend plans until after checking on Crawford's left shoulder after Thursday's off day. "(We're) just trying to nurse that arm back to being as close to 100 percent at possible," Maddon said.

Getting Wiggy: Among the hitters considered readily available for trade is Orioles All-Star, and former Ray, Ty Wigginton. "If it happens, great," he said. "If it doesn't, great. I've enjoyed Baltimore to this point."

Wigginton has remained in touch with several of the Rays — Maddon was among those texting congratulations after he was selected for the All-Star team — and said he'd welcome a return to Tampa Bay.

"That would be cool," Wigginton said. "I definitely enjoyed my time there."

RHP Jason Isringhausen, another ex-Ray, is planning a comeback after elbow surgery, talking to several teams, with plans to throw for the Reds. The Rays could have interest but haven't set anything up.

Miscellany: Top prospect RHP Jeremy Hellickson pitched poorly in his first post All-Star Futures Game start, giving up six runs and walking five in 31/3 innings. … As usual when the Rays are in Baltimore, Maddon got deliveries of his delicacies from his hometown of Hazleton, Pa.: Third Base Luncheonette hoagies and Senape's Pitza (a form of cold pizza).

Tampa Bay Rays starter Matt Garza unsure of effects of long layoff 07/19/10 [Last modified: Tuesday, July 20, 2010 1:04am]

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