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Rays' Lee does it all, in the field and at plate

By TOM JONES, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published April 9, 2003

ST. PETERSBURG -- After Tuesday's 8-7 victory, Rays pitcher Seth McClung sat at his locker and talked about first baseman Travis Lee -- or T-Lee, as he called him -- and Lee's plays last week that earned a couple Web Gems, the defensive highlights on ESPN's Baseball Tonight.

Around the same time leftfielder Carl Crawford sat at the opposite end of the clubhouse and announced a couple of additions to Lee's highlight package: "Travis had some Web Gem plays (Tuesday night)."

Lee saved the game with his glove in the ninth and won it with his bat in the bottom of the 10th. Which was more fun?

"The same," Lee said, "I'm just glad we won."

In the ninth Lee helped the Rays out of a couple jams. With runners on second and third and no outs, Lee scooped a grounder from Jay Gibbons, held the runners and got the out. After an intentional walk Lee ended the inning with a double play by snagging a hard grounder, stepping on first and throwing a strike to catcher Toby Hall to get a runner at home.

With the bases loaded in the 10th, Lee knocked in the winning run by hitting a chopper off the glove of pitcher Buddy Groom with the Orioles in a five-man, drawn-in infield.

"It all happened so fast," Lee said. "I wasn't thinking anything. It's like, 'There it goes. Game over."'

PARQUE NOT OKAY: Starting pitcher Jim Parque added a lousy second start to a lousy first start. After 1 2/3 innings Tuesday, Parque has allowed 13 hits, 13 runs, nine walks with one strikeout in 6 2/3 innings. Tuesday was the second shortest of his 94 starts. His only start shorter was last season with the White Sox, when he pitched 1 1/3 at Texas.

HEADS UP: Aubrey Huff makes his outfield debut tonight in right. He has been working the past few days with first base coach and former outfielder Billy Hatcher.

"He takes fly balls with Hatcher before the game and then he catches balls off the bat (in batting practice)," Rays manager Lou Piniella said. "And then when the game starts we'll put a John Olerud helmet on him." Olerud, a first baseman for Seattle, wears a hard helmet in the field because of an aneurysm from when he was in college.

CENTER OF ATTENTION: Huff isn't the only outfielder getting extra work with Hatcher. Centerfielder Rocco Baldelli is working out the kinks of his defensive game after he misjudged a few liners during the first week of the season.

Part of the problem is Baldelli never played in a dome before his majors debut last week.

"His first instinct after the ball is hit is to look down," Hatcher said. "In a dome you can't do that because sometimes you can't pick the ball back up again. You lose it. We're working on him watching it as soon as it hits the bat and staying with it."

ON THE OTHER HAND: Baldelli isn't having any problems at the plate. He has at least one hit in every game and extended his hit streak to eight with a third-inning single Tuesday.

His 12 hits during the first week of the season were the most of any rookie. Since 1970 only three rookies had as many as 12 hits during their first week: Montreal's Mike Lansing in 1993, Oakland's Mitchell Page in 1977 and San Francisco's Al Gallagher in 1970.

MISCELLANY: Baldelli, Lee and Crawford are the first three Rays to start a season with hits in the first eight games. Baldelli is the second to start his Rays career with an eight-game hit streak. Brent Abernathy hit safely in the first 10 in '98.

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