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Sosa's turnaround is 'encouraging'

By KEVIN KELLY, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published August 18, 2002

ST. PETERSBURG -- What a difference a few days can make.

His future in the rotation in question after lasting three innings against the Royals on Aug. 11, rookie pitcher Jorge Sosa came back with his best performance of the season on Saturday.

"He gave us a good ballgame," manager Hal McRae said. "That was encouraging."

The Rule 5 right-hander allowed one earned run over seven innings, walking two and striking out four. At one point from the third to sixth innings, Sosa retired 10 straight in his longest outing since July 6 in Anaheim.

"I was encouraged by the fact that he threw strikes," McRae said. "You can't defense the base on balls. You can't be a successful pitcher if you don't throw strikes.

"Regardless of stuff, regardless of velocity, if you don't throw strikes you can't be successful."

Sosa was 0-4 with a 8.66 ERA and 15 walks in his previous four starts.

PREPARED FOR THE WORST: Based on lack of luck this season, Royals catcher Brent Mayne was worried about Ben Grieve making a spectacular catch on his tying home run to rightfield in the ninth inning.

"If he caught it I was just going to beat him up and tear my uniform off and retire," Mayne said, joking. "I was going to karate kick him and retire."

EZ DOES IT: A little more than a year ago, McRae hired Glenn Ezell away from the Tigers to become Rays bullpen coach.

"It's just like an English teacher or math teacher," catcher Toby Hall said. "Everybody is going to teach pretty much the same things, but I think it's the way certain instructors go about teaching that matters. He kind of adjusts to who his student is."

And there have been plenty of adjustments, particularly in Hall's case.

He was batting .187 with two homers, 16 RBIs and a .244 on-base percentage when the Rays optioned him to Triple-A Durham on May 28. He sat five games from May 18-23 to work on defensive fundamentals with Ezell. Both said a breakthrough was made just before the demotion.

"He's brought out different things that have just stuck in my head when I go out there and catch," Hall said.

TOUGH TIMES: It's not that teams are pitching him any differently. Randy Winn has just been in a slump lately.

"I haven't felt comfortable for about two weeks," Winn said. "When I'm going bad, you can probably tell me what's coming and I really won't have much of a chance. That's just the way it feels."

The centerfielder was batting .067 with four walks and seven strikeouts in seven games before going 3-for-6 with a triple, stolen base and two runs scored Saturday.

READY AND ABLE: As long as he can pile up some innings, reliever Steve Kent will pitch just about anywhere this offseason.

The Rule 5 rookie, who was in Class A last season and has made 28 appearances this year, will pitch for Grand Canyon of the Arizona Fall League.

"This was a year I thought I was going to get a lot of innings (in the minors), but that hasn't happened," Kent said. "So I need to go play. ... Hopefully they'll give me the opportunity to start. If you don't start you don't throw as many innings. And really the only time to learn is in the games."

THE ROOKIE RETURNS: Former Texas high school teacher turned Rays reliever Jim Morris, whose journey to the major leagues is chronicled in The Rookie, is scheduled to throw out the first pitch for the Sept. 5 game against the Angels. Morris will visit on a tour promoting the DVD release of the movie.

ODDS AND ENDS: The Rays have gone 14 consecutive series without winning one. The last teams to do that: the 1999 Cubs and 1999 Tigers, who lost 16 straight. ... Third baseman Jared Sandberg made errors in the second and third innings, giving him 11 this season, but fielded three more grounders cleanly. ... Rookie leftfielder Carl Crawford is 9-for-19 with two homers and seven RBIs against the Royals. ... Thirteen of Aubrey Huff's past 24 hits have gone for extra bases.


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