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Abernathy's slump puts him on bench

By Times staff writers
© St. Petersburg Times
published August 4, 2002

ST. PETERSBURG -- Brent Abernathy got away from the tendencies that made him one of the Rays' more solid hitters last year and that led to his benching Saturday.

The second baseman has 12 hits in his past 84 at-bats (.143), dropping his average to .238. He hit .191 in July, the lowest among Rays starters, and has five RBIs on the current nine-game homestand, with one in the 14 games before that.

Those numbers led manager Hal McRae to have a lengthy meeting with Abernathy, then announce that Felix Escalona will get most of the playing time for an unspecified period.

McRae also said Jason Conti would start the next few days in rightfield, filling in for Ben Grieve, who is hitting .241 after going 0-for-his-last-11 and getting seven hits since July 15.

"I was told it was for a while," Abernathy said. "I'm ready whenever needed."

Abernathy said his biggest problem has been trying to pull too many pitches rather than use the opposite field as he has successfully in the past.

"My approach at the plate has not been good and I haven't gotten many breaks at the plate. Therefore the results haven't been there," Abernathy said. "I strayed away from my strengths for a while."

* * *

EVERYTHING'S FINE: General manager Chuck LaMar said there would be no action taken against Tanyon Sturtze after a dugout tirade Friday during which the pitcher threw a stack of towels and a water cooler, which hit McRae's leg. McRae then shoved Sturtze.

"It's a situation where Hal's the manager and Tanyon's the player and they have to deal with it," LaMar said. "I'm satisfied they have."

Sturtze reacted angrily to being relieved in the sixth with a 5-3 lead, talking back to McRae and throwing the towels and tipping the cooler as he left the dugout. McRae took a few steps and shoved Sturtze with two hands in the back.

The two met after the game and McRae called it a "non-issue." Saturday, McRae said he pushed Sturtze as a "reflex action" and there were no hard feelings.

McRae said the incident was over and there would be no punishment.

He didn't have a lot of choice.

"I can't fine them enough," McRae said. "If you fine them $100 what's the use? One-hundred dollars? That's a phone call to a person you don't really like."

* * *

BACK FOR MORE: Just more than two months after he was carried off the field on a stretcher, umpire Steve Rippley returned to man home plate at Tropicana Field on Saturday.

Rippley was hit in the left temple by a Lee Gardner pitch that ricocheted off the A's Adam Piatt during a May 31 game. The blow briefly knocked the St. Petersburg native unconscious and halted the game for about 15 minutes as doctors attended to him.

Rippley, 48, who was held overnight at Bayfront Medical Center and released with a Grade 2 concussion, had a week of scheduled vacation, then missed four more weeks.

"It's back to normal. Whatever normal is," Rippley said. "It knocked me out right away and I lost consciousness for a couple seconds. Pretty much up until the point I got hit I remember a little bit but not everything. I know that it hit the batter but that's about it. I still flinch a little bit but that's to be expected."

Rippley put a small scare into the crowd when a Paul Wilson pitch deflected off Joe Crede's bat and knocked Rippley to his knees in the sixth inning Saturday. He quickly recovered and finished without incident.

* * *

ALVAREZ RARING TO GO: Wilson Alvarez threw for about 20 minutes in the bullpen, pronounced himself fully recovered from the left elbow tendinitis that put him on the disabled list July 17 and should be activated for Tuesday's game.

* * *

ALL CHECKED OUT: Doctors from St. Anthony's Health Care performed free physicals for about 400 Pinellas County student-athletes before the game.

* * *

SHORT HOPS: With the five-run third inning the Rays have scored five or more in an inning five times in the past 12 games. ... Wilson's win was his first against a team other than Baltimore this year.


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