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Rays tales

By MARC TOPKIN, Times Staff Writer

© St. Petersburg Times
published May 5, 2002


HARD-HITTER: Hal McRae will chat with Willie Randolph when the Yankees come to town Tuesday. They'll talk baseball, families and old friends. But they won't talk about the way McRae roll-blocked Randolph at second base during the 1977 AL playoffs, one of the most memorable second-base plays in history and one that led to a change in the rules of the game.

"We talk, but we don't talk about that play," McRae said. "I was just trying to win a ballgame. They knew exactly what I was doing. I hit a lot of infielders and nobody ever had hard feelings because they knew what I was trying to accomplish. So they sort of expected it, and occasionally I would get hurt."

McRae said he and Royals teammate George Brett had a simple strategy when they went into second base: "We tried to get them every play. Even if the throw was off, we hit them anyway. It's sort of like they do to quarterbacks. Try to hit them every play."

GOOD TIMING: The Yankees don't usually do the Rays any favors. But the Rays still are thankful for some help they got a couple years ago.

The Yankees released Victor Zambrano in February 1996 after two unimpressive seasons as an infielder. The scout who signed him, Rudy Santin, had moved to the Rays and wanted them to sign Zambrano as a pitcher, so he went to Venezuela to see him throw.

"They had me throw at 5 o'clock, but he didn't have a radar gun," Zambrano said. "Then they called me to come back and throw at 7 o'clock because they had a gun. They said if I threw more than 87 they'd sign me, and I threw 92-93. They borrowed the gun from the Yankees scout."

KEEP YOUR DAY JOB: Trying to change the Rays' luck, bench coach Billy Hatcher had Ben Grieve bring out the lineup card for Wednesday's game. "I didn't really know what to do," Grieve said. "They said I had to tell a joke. So I told this real corny joke: Why do Eskimos do their wash in Tide? Because it's too cold out-tide."

Since the Rays lost 5-3, Grieve doesn't figure to get the call again: "I guess I didn't bring us any luck."

STREAKING

A look at the Rays' longest losing and winning streaks:

EXCERPTED

From Tom Powers' column in the St. Paul Pioneer Press: "It was good to see Ben Grieve and Greg Vaughn come up to the plate back to back for the Devil Rays last week. I recognized both of them. Two Devil Rays in a row! There must be some sort of super-sleuth prize involved."

ONLINE ITEM OF THE WEEK

A DVD of Derek Lowe's April 27 no-hitter against the Rays and his postgame interview is being offered on eBay for $29.99. A similar video has a $19.99 price. A ticket stub from the game had a high bid of $10.99 Friday night.

KENT'S CORNER

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

Kent has enjoyed the upside of life in the big leagues. Thursday was an extreme low, when he came one strike from his first big-league save and instead gave up the tying and winning hits.

Though the stage is grander, Kent said the miserable feeling after failing was the same as it was in the minors. "I never want to lose, no matter what it is," he said. "I've made mistakes before. Hopefully I don't make the same ones."

QUOTE OF THE WEEK

"I can't get excited about something that doesn't excite me."

-- STEVE COX, assessing the Rays' no-assist game


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