Notes: Lugo returns to action

Notes: Lugo returns to action

ARLINGTON -- Julio Lugo was back in the lineup Thursday night after sitting out two games with soreness in his left knee.

Lugo hurt his knee after hitting a double in Sunday's win over the Royals, and Wednesday he said his knee felt worse. But after taking anti-inflammatory medication and receiving ice and electric stimulation treatments, his condition improved.

"Overall, I feel much better today," Lugo said.

Prior to missing the two games, Lugo had played in all of the Rays' games during the 2005 season. And he had just come off a hot July that saw him set a team record for the month with 40 hits.

Something new for Lou: Never let it be said that Rays manager Lou Piniella is too old to try something new.

Currently the Devil Rays use the tandem of Joe Borowski and Danys Baez to finish out the games; each is designated an inning -- Borowski the eighth and Baez the ninth.

Piniella has used a closer in the past, but he has never had a designated pitcher to anchor the eighth.

"I have never managed this way," Piniella said. "I always managed by matchups in the seventh and eighth innings."

A good example of the way the Rays manager liked to manage in the past was when he managed Cincinnati.

"I used [Randy] Myers to close and [Rob] Dibble or [Norm] Charlton in the seventh and eighth, depending on if they were facing right-handers or left-handers."

Piniella cited how managers Bobby Cox of the Braves and Joe Torre of the Yankees have successfully used a designated setup man for their closer.

"I'm sure there's a few others [who do it]," Piniella said. "I sort of like it. It takes the guess out of it. It's something that just sort of evolved. ... It frees me to use [the rest of his bullpen] the way I want to."

Of course none of this would have been possible if Borowski hadn't been signed July 11 during the All-Star break. Since joining the team, the righty has pitched in 10 games and not given up a run in 9 1/3 innings.

"This is the best our bullpen has been all year," Piniella said.

Crawford setting the pace: With his 24th birthday Friday, Carl Crawford has already achieved a great deal and is on pace to be right up there with some of baseball's greatest players. The Rays' left-fielder will reach 24 with more hits than all but five members of the 3,000 hit club at the same age. That group includes: Henry Aaron, Al Kaline, Robin Yount, Ty Cobb and Stan Musial.

"So I'm on pace to get 3,000 hits, [dang]," said Crawford when told of his feat. "I just hope I can keep continuing what I'm doing, climbing the ladder. It's always good to be in the same company of those guys."

Of course Crawford is one of the Rays' veteran players. And now he's turning 24...

"I'm getting old," he said. "I might just keep telling people I'm 23."

This and that: Rays broadcaster Dave Wills missed Thursday night's game due to a death in the family and will not return to the booth until Tuesday in Baltimore. ... After being outscored 92-28 in the eighth inning during the first half of the season, the Rays have reversed the trend to where they hold a 13-7 edge in the eighth. ... With Alex Gonzalez's home run Tuesday night, the Rays' No. 9 hitters have hit a Major League-high 15 home runs. ... The Rays, who won just eight road games before the All-Star break, have won six of nine away from home since the Midsummer Classic.

On deck: The Devil Rays move on to Anaheim for the second leg of their 12-game road trip to begin a three-game series with the Angels. Right-hander Doug Waechter (4-6, 5.28 ERA) will start for the Devil Rays and will be opposed by right-hander Paul Byrd (9-7, 4.09 ERA). Waechter has surrendered 14 home runs in 93 2/3 innings.

Bill Chastain is a reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.