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Grieve starting to find power stroke

By KEVIN KELLY, Times Staff Writer

© St. Petersburg Times, published August 30, 2002

ANAHEIM, Calif. -- Though Ben Grieve still doesn't feel completely comfortable at the plate, the rightfielder's stats during the Rays' 13-game road trip are beginning to suggest otherwise.

ANAHEIM, Calif. -- Though Ben Grieve still doesn't feel completely comfortable at the plate, the rightfielder's stats during the Rays' 13-game road trip are beginning to suggest otherwise.

"I guess it's good to know that every once in a while I can take a good swing," Grieve said. "Before, every night one at-bat after the next was pretty much the same.

"It hasn't been consistent like I want it each night. Every so often I've been able to get that feel where I can drive a pitch. That's a start, I guess."

Grieve hit his fifth home run on this trip during Thursday's 6-1 loss at Edison Field and is batting .306 with eight RBIs, seven runs and three walks through the first 10 games.

He hit two homers in 30 games from July 4-Aug. 18.

"You go so long without hitting the ball hard or taking good swings that you wonder what it feels like to do that," Grieve said. "I've been able to feel that at times on this road trip.

"At least I know I'm still capable of hitting home runs. It hasn't been consistently each at-bat going up there with that feel, but it's been there from time to time."

The difference?

"He's more aggressive," manager Hal McRae said. "His ability isn't in question. It's how determined he is to go out and finish well."

TEXAS-SIZED HOMECOMING: If all goes as planned and a work stoppage is avoided, rookie outfielder and Houston native Carl Crawford will have a sizable cheering section at the Ballpark in Arlington this weekend.

About 20 friends and family plan to attend today's game, which would be Crawford's first in Texas since being called up from Triple-A Durham on July 20. That number would grow to about 80 Saturday. Crawford and his agent arranged for a bus to take those who didn't want to make the three-hour drive from Houston.

"It's going to be an adventure because I've got a lot of people coming up," Crawford said. "It's going to be a hassle with tickets and room, but I'm just going to try and block all that out. It should be fun. I always enjoy the time when I can see familiar faces from back home.

"Everybody that's coming up (today), they're coming up regardless. But I've got to wait and see what happens because that Saturday bus might not happen."

STILL HURTING: With Steve Cox slowed by a nagging injury to his left arch, expect to see more of Aubrey Huff at first base the rest of the season.

"With the way he feels he's better off DHing and not playing," McRae said.

Cox has started nine of his past 11 games at designated hitter and said the injury should heal during the offseason.

IMPRESSIVE OUTING: Moved from the closer's role this month, reliever Esteban Yan picked up his sixth win in a season-high three innings of scoreless relief Wednesday. He is tied with starter Paul Wilson for the second-most wins on the pitching staff.

"I don't want to make mistakes," Yan said. "I want to keep the ball down, not try to do too much and let them hit the ball and see what happens."

MINOR MATTER: Outfield prospect Rocco Baldelli, who began the season at Class A Bakersfield and now is at Triple-A Durham, was named MVP of the California League on Thursday. He batted .333 with 19 doubles, 14 homers, 51 RBIs and 21 steals for the Blaze. Baldelli joined closer Evan Rust and outfielder Jonny Gomes on the end-of-the-year California League All-Star team.

ODDS AND ENDS: Starter Victor Zambrano, who left with a left hamstring strain Tuesday, threw without pain in the bullpen. ... The Rays and representatives for first-round pick B.J. Upton are scheduled to speak again today. The sides last held discussions Wednesday. ... Outfielder Jason Conti is scheduled to replace Randy Winn in centerfield today, with Andy Sheets spelling shortstop Chris Gomez.

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