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McRae doesn't plan to lobby for his job

By MARC TOPKIN, Times Staff Writer

© St. Petersburg Times, published September 24, 2002

NEW YORK -- Manager Hal McRae and general manager Chuck LaMar will meet this this morning to start discussing in detail what went wrong this season and what can be done to make it better.

NEW YORK -- Manager Hal McRae and general manager Chuck LaMar will meet this this morning to start discussing in detail what went wrong this season and what can be done to make it better.

Whether McRae will be part of the solution may be part of the talks.

McRae, who is signed for next season at $700,000, said he will offer input on the players and positions but doesn't plan to say anything about his job status.

In the last week he has come out publicly and said that the team needs substantial change and that he would prefer to have his contract extended so he is not viewed as a lame duck.

Now he plans to hear what LaMar has to say.

"I don't have a prepared statement; I'm just going to listen," McRae said.

"Whatever the outcome is, that's fine. I'm going to be happy-happy regardless of what happens. If I'm here, I'm going to be happy. If I'm not here, I'm going to be happy. I'm going to be happy-happy.

"I have no reason to be angry. I have no reason to feel bad about anything. Whatever. I'm at peace. I'll thank him if I stay and I'll thank him if I go. ...

"I'm just going to take it as it comes and be grateful for whatever. If I go, I managed two years. And if I stay, I get to start a third."

* * *

HUFFING AND PUFFING: Aubrey Huff has developed into the Rays' top hitter this season and has turned out to be an adequate infielder, good enough that he is considered the likely starter next season at first base and can fill in at third.

He also, according to McRae, might have the best baserunning skills on the team.

"He might be the best baserunner on this whole ballclub, which for a slow guy is hard to say," McRae said. "But we've observed that, and he's just as good as anyone."

Huff was, shall we say, surprised to hear his manager's assessment.

"I guess I get good reads," he said. "I have to be a good baserunner, because I'm not fast enough."

The delayed steal has become something of a specialty. "He could teach the delayed steal," McRae said. "He's the best I've seen. He lulls the defense to sleep."

He does it so well, McRae said, that defenses are beginning to pay too much attention for it to work as well.

Huff, who has stolen four bases in five chances, said he has no choice. "That's pretty much my only chance to steal a base, to sneak one on them,' he said.

LEFT, LEFT, LEFT: Huff played third Monday and is scheduled to do so again tonight and Wednesday, with Steve Cox at first and Ben Grieve as the DH, so McRae can get all three left-handed bats in the lineup.

Huff, who threw his third baseman's glove in the trash when he was sent to the minors after spring training, is playing with a glove borrowed from Jared Sandberg.

BRAZELTON REPORT: Dewon Brazelton will skip tonight's start because of soreness in his right arm. Whether he is allowed to take his next turn in Sunday's season finale has not been decided.

"We're just going to monitor him," McRae said. "It's between the pitching coach, Brazelton and the medical staff."

MISCELLANY: Randy Winn is three hits shy of matching Quinton McCracken's 1998 team record of 179 hits in a season. ... The Rays have hit 88 batters, five shy of Boston's major-league record of 93. ... John Flaherty and Wilson Alvarez were fined $250 each by the team for missing last week's charity golf tournament. ... The Rays will get a break in Boston: Pedro Martinez said he'll skip his scheduled start against them Friday. ... The Rays streak of allowing home runs in 17 games, which had been the longest in the majors this season, ended. Houston allowed homers in 26 straight last season.

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