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Harper does his part as a starter

By MARC TOPKIN, Times Staff Writer

© St. Petersburg Times
published May 26, 2002


OAKLAND, Calif. -- Travis Harper was the only Ray who earned a gold star Saturday.

While the batters were flailing at Oakland rookie Aaron Harang's pitches, and reliever Jorge Sosa let the game get out of hand, Harper turned in another solid start, allowing five hits and three runs over six innings.

"Harper did a good job, a real good job," manager Hal McRae. "He only gave up three, and legitimately only two, so we were in the ballgame. So he did his job. He pitched six innings and left with us trailing by three, which is a good outing."

He made only one mistake, hanging a curveball that Jermaine Dye turned into a two-run homer. The third run scored when Randy Winn misplayed a fly ball.

In six outings (including three starts), Harper is 1-2 with a 3.27 ERA, allowing 18 hits and eight earned runs in 22 innings. He likely is headed back to the bullpen if Wilson Alvarez comes off the disabled list this week as expected.

"You just want to go out, put some zeros up, get deep in the game and give your team a chance to win, and I feel like I've been doing that," Harper said.

WELL-ARMED: The Rays still were trying to figure out how a fan got a small octopus into the Coliseum on Friday night, and how it got into the middle of rightfield.

"It looked pretty darn big," Rays second baseman Brent Abernathy said. "I don't know how they got it where they did out on the field. I asked the first-base umpire what it was, and he said, "I don't know, there's no telling here what it is.' I think we were all kind of thinking it could have been something a little bit worse than an octopus."

Stadium groundskeeper David Maderios wasn't sure either, but said there was no doubt once he got closer. "It stunk," Maderios said. "It was bad. You should have seen the guys in the dugout when we brought it by."

The octopus-flinging fan was detained in a stadium holding cell and released. "He had a bologna sandwich in jail and we had calamari," Maderios said.

LATE-NIGHT REWARD: After watching for six games, rookie reliever Lee Gardner finally got to pitch Friday. And that meant his parents and other relatives in Michigan got to go to sleep.

With the Rays on the West Coast, the Gardners have been staying up to track their son's major-league debut. But the satellite dish they ordered hadn't been hooked up, so they were left to "watch" the game via pitch-by-pitch updates on the Internet.

"They've been walking around with bags under their eyes for the last week," Gardner said. "When I got taken out of the game they called and left me a message and said "Good job' and went back to bed."

MEDICAL REPORT: Abernathy said his left wrist, bruised when he dived on it making a play Friday, was sore but tolerable. "I've had a lot of problems with it in the past, and I've played through a lot worse with it," he said. . . . The bruise on Ben Grieve's left thumb is getting better but McRae said he doesn't know when Grieve, out the past four games, will return to the lineup. "I hope he feels good enough to play on Tuesday," McRae said.

MISCELLANY: Alvarez made what is expected to be his final minor-league rehabilitation start Saturday, allowing four hits and one run over five innings for Double-A Orlando. . . . The Rays are 11-30 against the A's, their worst record against any AL opponent. They are 18-46 against the Yankees. . . . The A's have won two straight for the first time since late April.


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