The Devil Rays claimed infielder Josh Wilson off waivers from the Washington Nationals on Thursday. In 19 games for the Nationals in 2007, Wilson was batting .053 (1-for-19) in a limited role. Wilson, who is known for his defense, also had five errors in limited chances.
The Devil Rays optioned Ben Zobrist to Durham in order to make room for Wilson on the roster. According to several statements from manager Joe Maddon and general manager Andrew Friedman, the Devil Rays have been thinking about making the change ever since Brendan Harris emerged as the starter a few weeks ago. The organization wants Zobrist to be given the chance to play everyday, which they hope will help rebuild confidence in his offensive ability.
Jorge Velandia, who had a strong week in Durham, was another option to be called up. However, Wilson offers more versatility to the Devil Rays in the eyes of management. Due to Zobrist's demotion, Velandia's role should change dramatically for the Bulls. With Zobrist in the picture, he will most likely fill a utility role, but could see some time at second base in place of struggling Elliot Johnson as well. Zobrist will be given a much-needed chance to play on a consistent basis.
Harris is unquestionably the starting shortstop for the Devil Rays right now. But top prospect Reid Brignac and Zobrist are still in the organization's plans for the long term. Harris has been one of the Devil Rays' most consistent hitters through the first half of the season. In 22 games, the William and Mary product is batting .333 (third on the team) with two home runs and nine RBIs. Still, Maddon thinks that Zobrist will be back in the near future.
"It became obvious at the plate because he was experimenting with so many different things," Maddon said. "It's the confidence factor -- he just lost it a little bit, everybody does, he's not unique. By sending him back [to Triple-A] and getting him in the appropriate order -- we want to get him back as quickly as we can."
Zobrist lost his position after a slow start offensively, which also led to struggles in the field. He was only hitting .159 (10-for-63) with five errors and a fielding percentage of .929.