Winn doing what it takes on offense
By BRANT JAMES and MARC TOPKIN
© St. Petersburg Times
published May 12, 2002
ST. PETERSBURG -- Manager Hal McRae never had any inkling that Randy Winn would be leading the Rays in RBIs 35 games into the season. Maybe because he never expected him to be in the lineup so much.
In a season already shrouded in doubt, Winn emerged as a pin-point of encouragement even before his three-run homer with two out in the ninth broke the Rays' 15-game losing streak Saturday.
"I didn't expect him to play every day in centerfield," McRae said, "'but he told me he was the best and he would prove to me he was the best centerfielder on the team, and he did."
Winn has excelled where the Rays haved failed: maximizing opportunities. He leads the team in RBIs (24) and has seven in his past four games despite making 22 of his 32 starts as the No. 2 hitter, which is not a typical run-producing spot.
"I don't expect to be leading at the end of the season, but when I get my chance, I try to come through," said Winn, who had 50 RBIs last year. "I'm not a power hitter, I don't hit a lot of home runs, but I kind of adapt my game to the situation. If I need to move a runner over, I move them over. If it's time to drive them in, I try to drive them in."
Winn, who has played 27 games in center and seven (including Saturday) in right, leads the AL with five outfield assists.
FINALLY: Esteban Yan earned his second win of the season and became the first Rays pitcher to win since Ryan Rupe on April 24. He threw one inning and allowed a walk.
Starter Tanyon Sturtze allowed four runs on eight hits and two walks in six innings and left trailing 4-1. He stayed in the dugout until the eighth and watched Winn's winner under a bag of ice in the training room.
"It's nice to not put one up in the "L' column, for me and the whole team," he said. "I put us in a hole, 3-0, and they kept battling and battling and they finally pulled one out for the whole team."
BABY STEPS: Oft-injured starting pitcher Wilson Alvarez will make a four-inning (or 60- to 65-pitch) rehabilitation start Tuesday at the Ray Naimoli Complex.
Alvarez, 32, has been out 24 games with a strained rib cage. He started two games, going 10 innings, then went on the disabled list on April 15.
Pitching coach Jackie Brown said Alvarez is slated for a minor-league rehab May 20 to ready him to join the team in Seattle for the six-game West Coast leg of a 12-game road trip.
It all depends on how he feels after each outing.
"I can't wait," said Alvarez, who missed all of the past two seasons recovering from rotator cuff surgery. "When (the strain) first happened I thought it would only be a couple of days. But it was getting sorer and sorer every day and they were saying, "You can't pitch.' It was kind of frustrating."
C.C. RIDER: With leftfielder Jason Tyner struggling, prospect Carl Crawford's performance at Triple-A Durham becomes more topical. Crawford, the talented 20-year-old, has been impressive with a .359 average, 5 home runs, 20 RBIs, and 8steals in 34 games.
But as Rays officials decide when to bring him up -- whether it's next week, next month or next season -- they are evaluating finer skills.
"It's great that he's putting up the numbers but there are certain things we look for -- how will he handle left-handed pitchers at this level, how he'll adjust to the different pitches in the strike zone, especially the offspeed pitches," general manager Chuck LaMar said.
PT: Shortstop Chris Gomez will get a planned day off today. Felix Escalona (.210 batting average) will make his ninth start, his fourth at short. Catcher John Flaherty, who doubled twice Saturday, will start in back-to-back games for the first time this season. Tyner, 2-for-his-past-16, pinch hit in the ninth and singled.
RAYS BITS: The Rays have three walk-off homers, matching their total from last year.
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