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Rays tales

By MARC TOPKIN, Times Staff Writer

© St. Petersburg Times
published April 7, 2002

NEW YORK, NEW YORK: The Rays have four rookies who'd never been to New York before this weekend. A handful of others have only been there a couple times. So you know there's bound to be some fun.

Friday, Jason Tyner -- considered virtually a native among the young Rays because he spent three weeks with the Mets in June 2000 -- couldn't stop laughing over how Travis Phelps tried to buy a multiride subway MetroCard with a $1 bill when the individual ride tokens cost $1.50 each.

"I'm from Missouri (Wheaton, population 637 to be exact), I ain't from New York," Phelps said. "I don't know how those things work. And I was flustered by the autograph seekers. They were running after us, and followed us into the subway station."

Usually, Phelps tries to avoid such complications: "I don't go out in this crazy town. I stay hidden in my hotel room."

RULE OF FIVE: The Rays seem to gain notoriety in the most unusual ways. Starting the season with three players from the December Rule 5 draft -- Felix Escalona, Steve Kent and Jorge Sosa -- is another. According to team research, the Rays are the first club to carry three Rule 5 picks since the 1967 Cubs, who opened with pitcher Ramon Hernandez (drafted from Atlanta), infielder Jose Arcia (St. Louis) and catcher Bill Plummer.

From ESPN's SportsCenter Thursday night: "The Devil Rays are Peak Performers -- do not adjust your set. ... The Devil Rays' sensation -- can you feel it sweeping the nation? ... With a quiet confidence, Tampa Bay is taking the baseball world by storm. ... Three games, three wins. A perfect record. Dare we ask, is 162-0 a possibility?"


A game-used, autographed and cracked Toby Hall bat -- "acquired directly from Toby" -- was selling for $91.60 on e-Bay on Thursday night.


An occasional update from Kent, a 23-year-old rookie pitcher, on his first tour of the major leagues. Flying to a road game, and flying on a chartered plane, with the extra attentive service and steady flow of food, was new to Kent, who spent last season riding buses in the Class A California League. Also new was staying at a fancy hotel like the Grand Hyatt in midtown Manhattan. "Pretty nice, especially compared to the Comfort Inn," Kent said. "Some of the hotels we stayed in didn't have an elevator." But what really made his weekend was pitching Friday in Yankee Stadium. "It was great; I can't even describe it," Kent said. "This is the big time, the big, big time."


"Take a snapshot of it."

-- HAL McRAE, Rays manager on being in first place

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