Notes: Fossum focused on next year

Notes: Fossum focused on next year

ST. PETERSBURG -- Two days after having season-ending surgery to his left shoulder, Casey Fossum was in the Rays' clubhouse, appropriately with ice on his left shoulder.

"I've gone through this once before and it wasn't the same pain I had from my first surgery," Fossum said. "We thought maybe it was tendinitis. The training staff did a great job of treating it for a little bit. But it got to the point where we said there is something wrong, and we wanted to take care of it now so I could be ready for Spring Training."

Fossum said there is a certain sense of relief at being able to identify what was wrong with his shoulder.

"Anytime you have a problem with anything, you want to know what is causing it," Fossum said. "And they found an answer right away."

Fossum did some range-of-motion exercises Sunday with the Rays' trainers.

"My range of motion is great," Fossum said. "They didn't repair anything [during the operation], basically they just cleaned it up. So I'm not really rehabbing like a tear or anything. They just shaved down the fraying on the labrum and the rotator cuff."

Fossum, who went 6-6 with a 5.33 ERA in 25 starts this season, was asked to assess his season.

"You look at my record -- 6-6, you know -- I feel like I kept the team in all but four games that I went out there," Fossum said. "Your job as a starting pitcher is to keep the team in the game. You could take away a couple of my starts when my arm didn't feel good, and a couple of 1 2/3-innings starts; other than that, that puts me at a pretty good year.

"But I felt like I battled and I didn't really let the team down that much, and [I] kept us in a lot of ballgames."

Fossum, whose fastball regularly hit 94 mph in 2005, did not approach that velocity in 2006, which can be attributed to the shoulder problem.

"It was hard for me to get it up to 89-90 the last two months," Fossum said. "I think just starting over and getting my arm back, I don't see any reason I shouldn't be back over 90 next year -- do some strengthening and it will give me something to shoot for. Sometimes I did lack my fastball where I could elevate it and blow it past someone. But on the other hand, I really learned how to use my breaking stuff this year, [including] my changeup, which I think will make me better once I get my fastball back."

Fossum expects to be fully recovered by Spring Training.

Witt and Lee rule: Travis Lee recently bought a table-tennis table for the Rays' clubhouse. And while the table has since been relocated to an interview room, it has fueled the fire of competition among several Rays players, such as Carl Crawford, James Shields, Tomas Perez, Kevin Witt, Brian Stokes and Lee.

"A lot of guys want to get in to play," said Witt, who learned to play as a youngster [on] his family's table. "Whenever I'm not in the lineup, I like to get it going."

Lee and Witt have since risen to the top among their peers.

Witt said the two have had some "pretty good" matches. Other matches haven't been as competitive.

Witt's locker is next to Crawford's, and the Rays' left fielder is a competitive individual. Thus, the chirping began, and shortly thereafter -- game on.

"[Crawford] was talking smack," Witt said through a smile.

Witt and Crawford disappeared from the clubhouse, and when they returned Crawford, was sweating and touting Witt's skills.

According to Witt, Crawford was down 13-3 in the first match before Witt let him start over and then Witt defeated him 21-5.

Perez has been around the Major Leagues a long time and played for other teams, such as the Phillies and Blue Jays, that also played table tennis in their clubhouses. So Perez had the stature to answer the question of who was the best table-tennis player in the Major Leagues. Perez answered: "[Witt] is the best I've seen."

Boys & Girls Clubs Benefit: In support of the ongoing commitment from Major League Baseball, its clubs and the players to increase opportunities for youth participation in baseball and softball, the Baseball Tomorrow Fund awarded a grant for $2,500 grants to both the Boys & Girls Club of the Suncoast and to the Boys & Girls Club of Tampa Bay. The grant was awarded in conjunction with the BTF/Devil Rays Equipment Day drive, which was held at Tropicana Field on Sept. 3, 2006. Both the equipment collected and the BTF grant will benefit the Reviving Baseball in Inner Cities (RBI) programs at both Boys & Girls Clubs.

Jennifer Cartabona, grant coordinator of the Baseball Tomorrow Fund, and Crawford presented checks for $2,500 to representatives from each organization during a ceremony prior to the Rays-A's game on Sunday.

Coming up: The Rays will begin a three-game series against the Yankees in a 7:05 p.m. ET contest Tuesday night at Yankee Stadium. Right-hander Tim Corcoran (4-7, 3.96 ERA) will start for the Rays and will be opposed by right-hander Mike Mussina (13-6, 3.72 ERA).

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