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New 1B trades bulk for power

By MARC TOPKIN, Times Staff Writer

© St. Petersburg Times, published February 18, 2003

ST. PETERSBURG -- New first baseman Travis Lee reported to camp Monday with a slimmed-down look he hopes leads to a pumped-up offensive performance.

Lee dropped about 20 pounds to around 215, losing the bulkiness he had built around his chest and neck by lifting weights. The result is a more free and easy swing that he figures should enable him to increase his home run totals (13 with the Phillies last season; 73 in five seasons).

"I wasn't like fat, but I was really bulky because I lifted a lot," Lee said. "But I thought, I haven't had much home run success, power success, getting bigger. I see some guys that are not that big popping them out and I'm like, it has nothing to do with how big you are, it's your swing, it's the timing, it's all that kind of stuff."

Lee, who went to high school with Jared Sandberg in Washington, said he basically was "addicted" to weightlifting, figuring the bigger he was the better he'd do.

"We're men and we're like, 'Wow.' You start seeing results and you're like, 'Dude, what's going on? If I get bigger I'm going to hit more homers, I'm going to do this, and do that,' " Sandberg said. "But that's not the case. The case is your timing, your swing, how quick your hands are. I got rid of a lot of the bulk in my chest and went back to basics, that really nice fluid swing. I can get my hands back and let it go. ... I've been taking (batting practice) at home and I'm hitting balls farther than I have. It's how strong you are, not how big you are."

Lee said he also feels lighter on his feet, enough that he hopes to get the chance to steal bases again; he swiped 17 for Arizona in 1999.

He said his reduced production with Philadelphia last season, from 20 homers and 90 RBIs in 2001 to 13 homers and 70 RBIs, was more the result of some "mind games" over whether he'd stay in manager Larry Bowa's lineup than anything to do with a physical dropoff.

"Two years ago I felt really comfortable with Philadelphia and showed a little bit of what I can do," Lee said. "Last year I kind of went back on that stumbling road where you start playing mind games again. You're 0-for-3 and you're like, 'I better get a hit or I'm going to not play tomorrow.' I'm like, 'Oh geez, this game's hard enough. You don't need that pressure.' "

LOU'S VIEW: Manager Lou Piniella likes what he has seen through four days of training camp. But asked if he had drawn any conclusions, he said, "I don't ever draw any, much less reach them."

TIME CHECK: Game time of the March 31 season opener is officially 5:15 p.m. Earlier reports listed 7:15. ... The start of the March 18 exhibition against the Braves has been moved to 1:15 p.m.

MISCELLANY: Sunday's Piniella at the Palm dinner and silent auction raised $65,000 for the Boys and Girls Clubs of Tampa Bay. ... Piniella and Aubrey Huff are scheduled to attend Friday's Tampa Sports Club dinner. ... Pitcher Victor Zambrano was sent home from Monday's workout because of flu-like symptoms. ... Veteran outfielder Greg Vaughn is expected in camp today. ... Catchers Angel Pena and Pete LaForest remain absent due to visa complications. ... The full squad works out for the first time Wednesday morning.

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