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Alvarez vows he won't retire

By JOHN C. COTEY, JAMAL THALJI and KEVIN KELLY
© St. Petersburg Times
published July 19, 2002

ST. PETERSBURG -- Wilson Alvarez isn't sure what his future holds, but he knows what it doesn't hold: retirement.

"I think I'll be fine in a couple of weeks. If you guys think I'm going somewhere else, I'm not," Alvarez, 32, told reporters at the Naimoli Complex, where he met with a trainer to discuss his upcoming rehab.

"A lot of people say I'm retiring, but I'm not retiring. Some people are retiring me. Not me."

The left-hander insists he will pitch again, despite another trip to the disabled list. If he pitches for the Rays, it will be as a long reliever and just for the remainder of the season.

"We talked to Mr. (Chuck) LaMar (Rays general manager) and he wants to try with young players, kids, kids in their 20s," he said. "He wants to develop more players; they don't want veterans. That's what I hear. I just want to move on and see what happens next year."

News that Alvarez isn't retiring is not good for the Rays, who owe him about $3-million. If Alvarez retired, the Rays wouldn't have to pay him. If the Rays release him, they have to pay off his contract.

Other than winding down a hugely disappointing and unproductive five-year stint in Tampa Bay as a reliever, another possible "solution" would be a settlement.

"Whatever they want to do," Alvarez said. "Whatever they think is best for the organization, I say do it."

Though he hasn't appeared in relief since 1992, his first full season in the majors, Alvarez said he respects the decision by LaMar and manager Hal McRae to put him in the bullpen if he returns.

"I understand. I haven't been doing the job. I respect that," Alvarez said. "I still think I owe (the Rays) a lot of things because (they) gave me the chance to pitch, and I didn't do my job.

"Like I say, I don't do the job. I don't even survive, what, two innings my last starts? I'll do whatever they want me to do."

The first big free-agent acquisition of the Rays, Alvarez has won 17 games since 1997 after signing a five-year, $35-million contract. He has been beset with injuries, missing the past two seasons after rotator cuff surgery on his left shoulder.

But Alvarez, on the 15-day DL for elbow tendinitis, said he's not ready to walk away.

"I think I've got a game left in my arm," Alvarez said. "I think I can still pitch; if it's somewhere else, it's somewhere else."

ABERNATHY SETS RECORD: Getting on base Thursday wasn't easy for second baseman Brent Abernathy, but he made the most of it when he did.

Abernathy set a club record with three stolen bases in a loss to the Red Sox. But to get on, he had to take two pitches to the body, from Frank Castillo in the third and from Tim Wakefield in the seventh. Wakefield walked him in the fifth.

"I haven't been getting on base too much lately and helping us score runs," said Abernathy, who hit .077 during the eight-game homestand. "I really am trying to be as aggressive (as possible), maybe help us score some runs when we're not swinging the bat. You need help scoring runs and this is another way."

He has a career-high nine stolen bases, after stealing eight last season in 88 games.

DEBUT: The eighth Ray to make his major-league debut this season will be right-hander Luis De Los Santos, whose contract was purchased from Triple-A Durham.

The 24-year-old will take Alvarez's place in the rotation and start Saturday at Toronto.

A former prospect in the Yankees organization, he is on the road back after having two major operations since 1999: one to repair his right elbow and the other to reconstruct the anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee.

The Rays signed De Los Santos, a Dominican Republic native, in November and he reported to camp three weeks late because of visa problems. He earned his first win in two years this season, started 11 games and in 18 appearances was 6-1 with a 2.30 ERA.

CHARITABLE RAYS: Two of the highest paid Rays also are the most charitable. The July 22 Sporting News lists Alvarez and Greg Vaughn in its annual "good guys" in pro sports issues; Alvarez for his work in his hometown of Maracaibo, Venezuela, and Vaughn for his foundation's work in California, his native state, and his work with the St. Petersburg Boys and Girls Clubs.

ODDS AND ENDS: Utility infielder Felix Escalona said he expects to be back from a pulled right groin by Tuesday. ... Steve Cox's home run in the first gave the Rays their first lead in 36 innings. ... Durham outfielder Carl Crawford's average dipped to .299 after Wednesday's game, the first time his average has been below .300 since April 9.

-- JOHN C. COTEY, JAMAL THALJI, KEVIN KELLY


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