The end of the regular season means that daily bits of devestating news for the Tampa Bay Devil Rays have slowed to a crawl, but as Marc Topkin of the St. Petersburg Times reports, time doesn’t stand still for MLB’s most unlucky franchise.

The Devil Rays made Wade Townsend (above) their top 2005 draft pick hoping he could could make up for the year he missed because of a contract standoff with the Orioles.

Now the former Rice pitcher is likely to miss another full year after tearing the ulnar collateral ligament in his right elbow pitching in the Arizona Fall League.

Townsend will be examined next week by Rays orthopedic physician Koco Eaton and seems headed for Tommy John surgery, which would probably sideline him until spring training 2007.

After signing a minor-league deal for around $1.5-million, Townsend pitched in 12 games for the Class A Hudson Valley team, going 0-4 with a 5.49 ERA while missing some time with a stiff neck. His injury was diagnosed after he made one fall league appearance, pitching two innings Oct. 7 for Phoenix.

The Rays drafted Townsend to pair with former Rice teammate Jeff Niemann, their top 2004 pick, but have not gotten much return.

Niemann, who signed for a guaranteed $5.2-million, has been sidelined by continuing shoulder problems, and has also missed time with elbow and groin injuries. After missing all of 2004 because of a contract dispute, Niemann was 0-2 with a 4.11 ERA in 11 minor-league games in 2005.