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Dome occupied; it's back inside

By KEVIN KELLY, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published February 24, 2002

ST. PETERSBURG -- Had the Suncoast Home Show not been using Tropicana Field this weekend, the Rays might have practiced in the dome Saturday.

Rain pushed practice indoors at the Ray Naimoli training complex for the second straight day.

"I asked about it," manager Hal McRae said of moving to the Trop.

The Rays will attempt to practice outside today at the complex later than usual.

Workouts start at 2 p.m. instead of the usual 9:30 a.m. to allow the fields time to dry. This also gives players the chance to stay up longer and sleep in a little later than usual.

"It should be fun," pitcher Nick Bierbrodt said. "Especially on a night like this, you can go out a little bit though you won't stay up too late. Still, I'd like to thank Mother Nature."

CROUCHING FELIX, HIDDEN BAT: Infielder Felix Martinez is sticking with the compact batting stance he used at the end of last season.

If the home run he hit against the Twins on Aug. 19 didn't convince him, the two opposite-field homers he hit in winter ball in the Dominican Republic did.

"The last two months of the season I hit it good like that," said Martinez, who has three career home runs. "I want to hit the ball down instead of up, hit line drives. And I see the ball better."

LEGGING IT OUT: Incumbent shortstop Chris Gomez spent part of the offseason working with Padres strength coaches at Qualcomm Stadium, making sure his legs were ready for spring training.

The Carlsbad, Calif., resident, who had arthroscopic surgery on both knees in 1999, focused on agility drills and running. "It's probably the most important thing for me, so I really focus on legs. Even during the season I'm going to keep that up. That's my game plan."

WATCHFUL EYES: Considered one of the Rays outfielders of the future, Carl Crawford isn't above taking advantage of a favorable setup. He and Greg Vaughn have been paired in the same hitting group since position players reported Wednesday.

"It feels great to be around a veteran guy like that," Crawford said. "I just try to follow his lead and walk around in a respectable manner, not try to act like I've been here all the time. Just try and be humble and listen and absorb as much information as possible."

NEW ADDITION: Sherri Howard, wife of Hudson Valley manager Dave Howard, gave birth to the couple's second child last week. Gracie Mae Howard was born at 1:30 p.m. Thursday and weighed 7 pounds, 5 ounces. The couple also has a daughter, Samantha, 12.

ODDS AND ENDS: Pitcher Joe Kennedy agreed to terms on a one-year deal worth around $220,000. ... Reliever Kevin McGlinchy, who didn't face hitters with the rest of the staff Wednesday because of soreness in his right shoulder, played catch but did not throw off the mound. ... Ben Grieve, Steve Cox, Gomez, Paul Wilson and Toby Hall will be among those in attendance at the Children's Dream Fund All Star and Celebrity Sports Auction on Wednesday at Tropicana Field. ... Pitchers Enger Veras and Luis De Los Santos remain in the Dominican Republic. Both are experiencing visa complications.

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