Notes: Fossum set for debut

Notes: Fossum set for debut

ST. PETERSBURG -- Casey Fossum, who missed the final month of the 2006 season after having surgery on Sept. 8 to "clean up" his left shoulder, will make his first start of the spring Monday against the Tigers at Progress Energy Park.

Despite being behind the rest of the starters, the left-hander is expected to be ready to start the season.

"Barring any setbacks [I should be ready for the start of the season]," Fossum said. "Hopefully, I can build up some innings and recover well."

Fossum, who is scheduled to pitch one inning, said he doesn't know how many appearances he needs to get ready. He just wants to build up arm strength to where he can throw five or six innings.

"Usually in a game, they'll cut us off at about 100 pitches," Fossum said. "I feel like I could easily get up to 90, [and] I could throw 100 the next time. [I] just have to take it one game at a time."

Fossum is throwing pain-free and says that pitching without pain has helped him more consistently find the proper arm slot for delivering his pitches. And he's been throwing all of his pitches.

"It was kind of weird," Fossum said. "I'd be throwing my [side sessions] and my body would just tell me I was ready to start throwing my curveball."

A major positive about his recovery is the fact that he's not thinking about his arm or shoulder anymore.

"[I'm] just mainly [thinking about] what's coming out of my hand, my pitches and how they're breaking -- [as well as] location, which has been pretty good so far," Fossum said. "When you get in that game, it steps it up as far as the intensity level. I just have to make sure my arm is responding the next day, which it has been."

Rays manager Joe Maddon said he's looking forward to seeing Fossum pitch Monday.

"I know he is coming off the surgery, [and] that is always a mental moment to get beyond that point," Maddon said. "His work to this point has been great. The [batting practices] he's thrown have been very good. So I'm curious to see what he looks like."

Staying on a regular progression from Monday to the regular season is critical for Fossum at this point.

"My biggest concern would be that all of a sudden we had to put the brakes on so we had to back off. That would be the red light," Maddon said. "If he's able to keep meeting his schedule, I'm sure he'll be ready on time. We'll be a little cautious [Monday], but not overly. Again, we just don't want any setbacks. The progress has been so good."

Fossum is being counted on to be in the Rays' starting rotation that will include Scott Kazmir, Jae Seo, James Shields and an undetermined fifth starter.

Spring Training wins: Maddon isn't concerned about the Rays' victory total thus far in Grapefruit League action.

"We all want to win in Spring Training, but I'm more concerned with what we're doing and how we're doing it," said Maddon, whose club sports a 1-10 mark.

Maddon characterized the work that has been done thus far as "great," noting the coaching staff and he have "thrown a lot of things at" the players.

"The issue right now is not winning and losing," Maddon said. "The issue is getting all the things I want to see -- better quality at-bats [and] see more of a grinding approach at the plate. I see our pitchers pitching to contact, keeping the ball down, throwing more strikes. The defense, except for one game, has played well. All the concepts are getting done. It's out there."

Maddon said he'd much rather win beginning in April, but he did say they would put a greater emphasis on winning games toward the latter part of Spring Training.

"At that point, you start playing predominantly one group of players and a specific group of backups," Maddon said. "We're just giving everybody an opportunity right now. There are a lot of guys in camp and you want to make sure everybody gets a chance. If you look at it primarily, if we start scoring more runs and the pitching keeps doing what they're doing, we're going to be OK."

Up next: The Rays will host the Tigers on Monday at Progress Energy Park in a 1:05 p.m. ET contest that will feature Fossum's first start of the spring. Following Fossum's outing, the Rays will use right-handers Jeff Niemann, Steve Andrade, Tony Peguero, Al Reyes and Gary Glover. Right-hander Jeremy Bonderman will start for the Tigers.

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