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Sturtze not happy with starts so far

[AP photo]
Hal McRae checks on Tanyon Sturtze after he allowed a run-scoring single in the fourth to Derek Jeter.

By MARC TOPKIN, Times Staff Writer

© St. Petersburg Times
published April 8, 2002

NEW YORK -- This sure wasn't the way No. 1 starter Tanyon Sturtze expected to begin the season. And he definitely plans to do something about it.

Sturtze was ineffective again Sunday, and after two games he has ugly numbers to go with an 0-1 record: an 8.49 ERA, 18 hits and 11 runs allowed in 112/3 innings, and the same amount of walks (six) as strikeouts.

"My first two (starts) have been disappointing, and I'm pretty upset about what's been going on," Sturtze, the team MVP last season, said. "I think I've been absolutely terrible these first two starts, and I'm not too happy about it. I have a lot of work to do."

Sturtze said he feels like he is rushing his delivery, but will watch videotape to be sure. Then he will do whatever it takes to correct the flaws.

"I don't think I'm trying too hard, I'm just not making pitches right now," Sturtze said. "I'm just not executing."

A GOOD MORNING ... : Felix Escalona got quite the pleasant surprise when he walked into the clubhouse early Sunday.

Manager Hal McRae told him he'd be making his first major-league start, at Yankee Stadium and against Roger Clemens no less. "It was exciting," said the 23-year-old shortstop, who hadn't played above Class A until this season.

Jason Smith got something of a surprise too. He'd been told he would be making his first start, but expected to be at shortstop rather than third base. Smith figures he played four or five games at third in the now-defunct California Fall League in 1999, and a couple more during his American Legion days as a teenager in Alabama.

"It went all right," Smith said. "I didn't feel too good at the plate. I really wanted to get my first hit off a Hall of Famer, and maybe that's why I wasn't comfortable. I felt more comfortable in the field than I thought."

Neither got a hit, but, despite a bobble or two, both were okay defensively.

... AND A BAD NIGHT: Escalona was in the lineup because third baseman Bobby Smith was not.

McRae had said he planned to stick with Smith, who has been struggling (1-for-19 with nine strikeouts), until Friday when Russ Johnson is expected to be activated from the disabled list.

But McRae changed his mind at about 2 a.m. Sunday.

"I woke up around 2, laying around with nothing to do, and for some reason that thought popped in my head and that's what I went with," McRae said.

McRae said Bobby Smith will be in the lineup Tuesday. Johnson was scheduled to play for Double-A Orlando on Sunday on a rehab assignment.

HEX IN THE CITY: The Rays are 6-24 at Yankee Stadium, their worst record in any park. Including games at Shea Stadium, they are 8-28 in New York.

MINOR MATTERS: Chad Gaudin, a 19-year-old right-hander who didn't allow a run in 38 innings during instructional league, was a winner in his pro debut for Class A Charleston on Saturday. Gaudin pitched 41/3 scoreless innings, allowing three hits. ... Durham's Jared Sandberg went 3-for-5 Saturday, raising his average to .462. ... Durham pitchers went 29 innings before issuing their first walk. ... Bakersfield pitchers Brian Stokes, Radhames Peguero and Evan Rust combined on the organization's first shutout of the season.

MISCELLANY: Greg Vaughn is 4-for-22 with nine strikeouts. ... Jason Giambi drove in his first run as a Yankee with an eighth-inning single. ... New York's Joe Torre took over 18th place all-time with his 1,481st win as a manager.

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