Manager Joe Maddon insists Scott Kazmir is still the ace of the Rays' staff. But James Shields is clearly their best starting pitcher. Shields (3-0, 2.94) had another brilliant outing that was ruined Sunday by the bullpen. He went seven innings and got out of a huge jam in the seventh, but got nothing for it as the Rays lost a third straight.
"I go out there every time and do my best," Shields said. "You can't control some of the things that happen in the ballgame. That was a tough series for us."
Shields has received three straight no decisions despite allowing just four runs in 24 innings. In each of his nine starts, he has left the game with the Rays tied or ahead.
MARLINS 4, RAYS 3: The Rays got a strong start from James Shields and what looked to be enough offense, but then they turned it over to their bullpen, and that was pretty much the end of the day as Florida rallied against relievers Brian Stokes and Shawn Camp in the eighth.
The Rays are among the teams who will have interest in RHP Troy Percival, the ex-Angels closer who is planning a comeback at age 37. "If his arm is well, Percy, first of all, is a very top-end relief pitcher, regardless if he's been out a little bit or not," said Rays manager Joe Maddon, who considered Percival a favorite when both were with the Angels. "No. 2, Percy's really good in the bullpen because he's a mentor and he really gets involved personally, talking about the game. His preparation is spectacular. Beyond being able to pitch well, all the things he does in the clubhouse and the bullpen are kind of extraordinary."
LHP Scott Kazmir will move up a day in the rotation as the Rays seek to keep him on regular rest after Monday's off-day. I just wanted to get Kaz back on five days' (rest)," Rays manager Joe Maddon said. "I wanted to get him normal. That convinced us to give (Edwin) Jackson one more side day before his next start. That worked out for us, actually." Kazmir will pitch the opener of the Seattle series following by Casey Fossum and Jae Seo. Under the new alignment, Edwin Jackson will get extra rest and start Saturday in Chicago.
Despite having three starters with ERAs close to 8.00, the Rays are not ready to drop anyone form the rotation, preferring to give their potential young replacements at Class AAA more time to develop and sticking -- with Casey Fossum (3-3, 7.80), Edwin Jackson (0-6, 7.78) and Jae Seo (2-4, 7.80). "We're going to keep looking for answers," manager Joe Maddon said. "When we are ready to make moves based on different things, we will do that. But for right now, it's not going to happen."
C Josh Paul was sore but not mad after Marlins C Miguel Oliva slid into his left arm, spikes first, during a play in Saturday's game. "There was nothing wrong with the slide," Paul said. "No malice."
CF Elijah Dukes hit his team-high tying eighth homer on Saturday and matched former Rays prospect Josh Hamilton, now of the Reds, for the most among major-league rookies. The Rays' rookie record for a season is 21 by Jonny Gomes in 2005.
DH Jonny Gomes' home run on Saturday night was his first since July 29, when he went into a slump and eventually had to have season-ending shoulder surgery. At this point last season, Gomes had 14 home runs.
BY THE NUMBERS: 900 -- Number of losses for the Rays in 1,497 games.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "Kaz was the No. 1 pitcher to start the season, and he's still the No. 1 pitcher." -- Manager Joe Maddon, on considering Scott Kazmir the ace of the staff, even though James Shields has been more successful.
INF/DH Greg Norton (surgery on torn medial meniscus in right knee) was activated from the disabled list on May 17.
CF Rocco Baldelli (left hamstring strain) went on the disabled list retroactive to May 16.
3B Akinori Iwamura (straining right oblique) went on the 15-day disabled list on April 24, and he was expected to miss four to six weeks. He took batting practice on May 15.
RHP Shinji Mori (torn labrum) is rehabbing without surgery and might be ready by midseason.
RHP Doug Waechter (shoulder surgery) is rehabbing and is expected to be game-ready by June.