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Gomez playing well, but future is unclear

By MARC TOPKIN, Times Staff Writer

© St. Petersburg Times, published August 23, 2002

BALTIMORE -- Chris Gomez had a pretty good first year for the Rays. But he may not have a job next year.

BALTIMORE -- Chris Gomez had a pretty good first year for the Rays. But he may not have a job next year.

Gomez on Wednesday played his 162nd game for the Rays and -- in the equivalent of one full season -- hit .275 with 43 doubles, 17 home runs and 73 RBIs. Those are decent numbers for a shortstop, especially one who had been known more for his work with the glove.

"It's more than I thought offensively," manager Hal McRae said. "I knew he was a steady defensive player but I'm sort of surprised by the offense."

The Rays hold a $2-million option for next season but have given Gomez no indication whether they want him back or if they can afford to have him back. They have to pay a $250,000 buyout if they decline the option.

"To tell you the truth, I have no idea what's going to happen," Gomez said. "I know their situation as far as payroll. I'm just going to continue to play and not worry about it. ... I'll just see what happens."

Gomez has a $1-million salary this season and is on track to earn most of an additional $500,000 available in incentives. He has made $200,000 by making 413 plate appearances ($50,000 at 250, 300, 350 and 400) and gets another $50,000 if he gets to 450. He earned $50,000 for playing in his 90th game and another $50,000 for his 100th, and can get $50,000 more for 110, 120 and 130. Thursday was his 106th game.

STRIKE OUT: According to a memo from MLB sent to teams, the standard contracts given to nonplaying personnel such as managers, coaches, scouts and trainers were changed a few years ago to give commissioner Bud Selig the power to suspend the contracts during a strike, meaning the staffers wouldn't get paid. During the 1994-95 strike they were.

While the memo said "no decision has been made regarding the exercise of this authority," and that some personnel may have special provisions guaranteeing pay, McRae didn't like to consider even the possibility.

"That wouldn't be right," McRae said. "I wouldn't think they would do that. You felt protected by the uniform contract and that's saying you're not protected."

McRae said such a decision would increase costs in the long run because the nonplaying personnel would look to unionize. "That would force people to get the protection of a union," McRae said.

MVP! MVP!: Outfielder Wes Bankston, the fourth-round pick in the June draft, was named MVP in the rookie-level Appalachian League.

Bankston hit .310 with 18 homers and 57 RBIs in 56 games, including eight homers and 20 RBIs in his last 14.

He is the third Rays prospect to win the league's MVP award in six years, joining Jared Sandberg (1997) and Jonny Gomes (2001).

Second-round pick Jason Pridie was named to the league All-Star team after hitting .365. His 97 hits (in 62 games) were the most for a player in any of the short-season leagues.

UPTON UPDATE: While most of baseball is focused on the Aug. 30 strike date, the Rays may be facing a Monday deadline to sign B.J. Upton, their top draft pick. Upton has an offer to attend Florida State, where classes start Monday, and the Rays lose his rights once he attends class. Upton also is considering several junior colleges.

WINDY CITY WELCOME: Sandberg isn't sure what to expect tonight playing his first game in Chicago, where his uncle, Ryne, starred for many years for the Cubs. "I hadn't even thought about it," he said.

NUMBERS GAME: The Rays lost the season series 10-9 and are 37-38 overall against the Orioles. ... The Rays are the major-league leaders with 11 walkoff losses, 17 extra-inning games (7-10) and 31 games (11-20) decided in the ninth inning or later.

MISCELLANY: Jorge Sosa has five quality starts (six or more innings, three or fewer runs) but has one win. ... Tanyon Sturtze rejoined the team after attending funeral services for an aunt in Massachusetts. ... Infielder Andy Sheets is running on his sore left leg and could be available by Saturday.

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