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Rays tales

By MARC TOPKIN, Times Staff Writer

© St. Petersburg Times
published April 14, 2002


KARMA CHAMELEON: Minor-league trainer Chris Tomashoff did a fine job singing the anthems Friday, and minor-league coach Dwight Smith has sung at other ballparks, leading us to wonder who among the major-league staff or players would be worthy of stepping up to the mike.

Unfortunately (or perhaps fortunately) it doesn't sound good. "I don't know, that's a hard one," Tanyon Sturtze said, "but I'd definitely stay away from (Greg Vaughn)."

Chris Gomez sang the Canadian anthem before a game once, but he was part of a group -- his entire New London, Ontario, minor-league team did it. Jason Conti plays the guitar, but says he absolutely, positively can't sing. Toby Hall suggested Brent Abernathy, who sang the anthem on a team bus as part of his rookie indoctrination. "Maybe in my younger days," said Abernathy, 24. Rookie Jason Smith, who apparently warbles a decent country tune, got a few nods. Jesus Colome was on the no-way list.

Bench coach Billy Hatcher supposedly thinks he's pretty good with gospel tunes, but said he won't sing the anthem "unless there's 50,000 people in the stands." But the Trop, he was told, can only hold about 45,000. "48,500 then," he replied.

So that brought us to third-base coach Tom Foley who -- believe it or not -- does a dead-on version of Boy George singing the 1980s hit Karma Chameleon. Foley, alas, wanted no part of the anthem idea, preferring to stick with his cover performances -- and leading us to wonder just what a team talent show would be like.

"I can kind of do Johnny Mathis too," Foley said. "But my wife hates it."

JOY OF SIX: The 12 runs the Rays gave up in the sixth inning Thursday were the most by an AL team in that frame in 77 years, and one shy of the post 1900 big-league record. The teams to give up 13 in the sixth? Cleveland, on July 7, 1923, to Boston; Detroit on June 17, 1925, to New York; and Montreal, on May 7, 1997, to San Francisco.

ANOTHER PLACE IN HISTORY: Randy Winn is the 12th major-leaguer, third in the past 50 years, to hit an inside-the-park grand slam (Oct. 3, 1999) and a pinch-hit grand slam (April 4). The others, according to SABR home run analyst David Vincent: Mike O'Neill, Beals Becker, Cy Williams, Marty Kavanagh, Rogers Hornsby, Harvey Hendrick, Les Bell, Hack Wilson, Pete Milne, Tim McCarver and Cesar Cedeno.

CHILLING OUT

Like their Tampa Bay football brethren, who have never won when temperature at kickoff was below 40, the Rays also have problems in cold weather. Baseball weather data is unofficial, but team records show the Rays are 0-9 when first-pitch temperature is below 54. And with lows in the 40s forecast for Detroit, it could be another chilly, and long, week. Here is a look at the Rays' cold-weather record:

ON-LINE ITEM OF THE WEEK

A 2002 season-magnet schedule, just like the ones readily available at the stadium, somehow had a high bid of $21.49 Saturday morning on eBay. And that was the fifth bid.

KENT'S CORNER

An occasional update from 23-year-old rookie pitcher Steve Kent on his first tour of the major leagues:

A big-league road trip, with chartered planes and first-class hotels, was pretty good. Pitching at Yankee Stadium was very cool. But Kent's next big deal will be getting his first big-league paycheck Monday.

"I'm looking forward to that," Kent said. "I can't wait."

Last year, pitching for Class A San Bernardino, Kent figures he barely made $6,000. This year, at the major-league minimum of $200,000, he'll make more than that in a week. Pretax earnings for a 15-day pay period are $16,393.

"The first check I'll use to catch up; my parents helped me with some stuff," Kent said. "Then I've got to get some necessities for my apartment."

QUOTE OF THE WEEK

"Long."

-- BEN GRIEVE, Rays OF on Baltimore's 12-run sixth Thursday


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