McGee Returns To Mound After Surgery





PORT CHARLOTTE, Fla. —  A few years ago, Rays manager Joe Maddon couldn't tell pitching prospects Wade Davis and Jake McGee apart.

"I didn't know if it was Wade McGee and Jake Davis,'' he said. "I didn't know who was who."

He was embellishing a bit (obviously since Davis is a righthander and McGee a lefty) but his point was that the two were routinely referred to in tandem, as if their careers would always be intertwined. But now there is another major difference as well—Davis has been to the big leagues, and McGee has not.

But that may not last long. McGee looked this spring to not only be ready physically, fully recovered from the July 2008 Tommy John surgery, but also mentally, reaching that stage Maddon often talks about of realizing he can be a major leaguer.

"When you see an arm like that, and everyone loves the 95 (mph) and the radar gun, but when you're doing that and throwing strikes, and with a breaking ball for a strike, that's what's really exciting,'' Maddon said. "Furthermore, he's getting that look like he belongs here, which really is scary good. I think Wade being here is motivational to him also, and that's a good thing.''

McGee, 23, said he's excited just to be starting the season healthy and free of the tedious rehab work, and eager to see where it takes him. There has been talk of eventually converting McGee to a closer's role, but the Rays plan for him to begin the season starting so he can log the necessary innings and develop his full repertoire.

"All the work I've put in the last two years is paying off finally,'' McGee said. "They want me to go down and stretch out and be a starter down there for a little bit and have the mindset of being a starter and working on all three of my pitches, throwing them for strikes and down in the zone. I'm sure if they need me, they might put me in the bullpen."

COOL RAYS

• Third baseman Hank Blalock was signed to a minor league contract. He has an out clause as of April 1, but may also end up playing at Durham if he has no other major league opportunities.

• Shortstop Tim Beckham, the top pick of the 2008 draft, was reassigned to minor league camp in the first cuts so he could get more regular work after making a strong impression on manager Joe Maddon.