Sandberg gets chance to play before family
By KEVIN KELLY, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published May 19, 2002
BALTIMORE -- When Bill Evers, manager for Triple-A Durham, rousted Jared Sandberg from bed May 8 to inform the infielder he was heading back to the majors, Sandberg was surprised and excited. But for reasons other than the obvious.
Among the first things to come to mind were a trip to his native Washington this week for a three-game series against the Mariners and seeing his wife, Julie, for the first time in nearly three weeks.
"I didn't think I was going to have a chance to go back," said Sandberg, who made his major-league debut last season. "It was in the back of my mind. But I just thought it was going to be too early in the season for me to get called up. I was expecting to see my family later in the season on the West Coast."
Sandberg was born and grew up about an hour south of Seattle, in Olympia, and has spent the past few offseasons living in the area. During the Rays' trip to Seattle in September, Sandberg's first games west of the Mississippi, he had a cheering section of about 55-60 for all three games.
A more low-key celebration is expected this time. "Last year was a big fiasco trying to get tickets for everyone," he said. "Everyone was excited the first time I had played in my hometown or even on the West Coast.
"This year, it's still exciting to go back home and play. But I think people realize it's more my business now whereas last year it was more spectacle."
TRIAL AND ERROR: Manager Hal McRae thought a year of evaluation would be plenty to determine what he had.
But 41 games into this season, McRae believes it could be another season or more before he has a true idea of the team's talent. Youth demands patience.
"I think it will take probably a couple of years," McRae said. "It might take three to determine who you want to keep and who you don't want to keep; who's best for your club and who's the best fit.
"Initially, you think you can do it if you see them for X amount of starts, X amount of games. You think you can do it that way. But I'm realizing it isn't that simple."
Two examples are relievers Jesus Colome and Travis Phelps. Both performed well last season and were counted on to contribute this season but now are at Triple A.
"It's tough to determine," McRae said. "I guess you just keep showing up, and eventually, you get an idea of who's best for the ballclub. It's not easy to do that."
CHARITABLE ENDEAVOR: There's an interesting idea being floated about on a Web site. EmailtheRays.com sent out a news release Wednesday asking area businesses to donate "future advertising dollars, sponsorship and other revenues to a blind trust that would only be dispensed upon a change of ownership."
ON THE LIST: He wasn't in the top 10 that included Albert Belle and Graig Nettles, but Rays bench coach Billy Hatcher was an honorable mention on a list of baseball's worst cheaters compiled by ESPN.com's Page 2 crew.
What did Hatcher do?
He used a corked bat against the Cubs on Aug. 31, 1987, and earned a 10-game suspension. Page 2 quoted Hatcher saying he borrowed the bat from pitcher Dave Smith and if he had known the bat was corked, he wouldn't have tried to bunt his first two times at-bat.
MR. MANAGER: Former Rays special assistant Frank Howard, now with the Yankees, is the interim manager for Triple-A Columbus. The 65-year-old managed two major-league teams during the 1980s. His 1981 Padres were 41-69 during the strike-shortened season. The 1983 Mets went 52-64 under Howard.
The stint in Columbus isn't expected to last long. General manager Ken Schnacke said a permanent replacement likely would be found by Monday or Tuesday.
HOO-RAYS: The Rays could play a factor in who wins the American League East or the wild card in September. Ten of their final 20 games are against the Yankees or Red Sox. ... Having grounded into a major-league-low 15 double plays through Friday, Tampa Bay was on pace to break the major-league record (75) set in 1945 by the Cardinals. ... Tyler Jennings, son of Rays scouting director Dan Jennings, was a member of East Lake's state baseball runner-up team. ... The Rays and Southwest Airlines are flying 10 children from the Children's Home Society and Metropolitan Ministries to today's game. The children will meet players and coaches, participate in pregame on-field activities and watch the game before flying home tonight.
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