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Piniella signals change in the pitch selection

By MARC TOPKIN, Times Staff Writer

© St. Petersburg Times
published April 13, 2003

NEW YORK -- Manager Lou Piniella hasn't been happy with the pitches the Rays have been throwing.

So he's going to tell them what to do.

Piniella said Saturday he will start calling some pitches from the bench in an effort to make things easy for inexperienced catcher Toby Hall to handle the mostly young pitching staff.

"I did it in Seattle a little bit with Danny (Wilson) too," Piniella said. "If I don't have any idea I'll tell them I don't know, but I think we're going to help these kids out a little bit.

"It's harder when you have young catching and young pitching. It's certainly much easier to catch an experienced pitcher than a young pitcher. It's much easier -- better location, better idea, more experience."

Piniella demands a lot of his catcher, and is making it clear to Hall, letting him know that he is responsible for what the pitchers throw if not how they throw it.

"We're going to grow with Toby," Piniella said. "We're basically teaching him as much as possible, and experience will be the best teacher."

Hall welcomes Piniella's involvement in the pitch-calling.

"Good," Hall said. "If that solves whatever, then whatever. ... Whatever it takes to make the team better, we should do it. ... But put this in there -- I'm not the one throwing the pitches."

CHANGES COMING: Piniella suggested that changes to the lineup and the rotation -- perhaps leading to the promotion of Dewon Brazelton -- could be coming in the next week or two.

"Just because you see our rotation now the way it is doesn't mean it's going to stay that way much longer," Piniella said. "We'll start making some changes and putting people in different areas."

The Rays won't need a fifth starter until Saturday in Baltimore, and could move Jorge Sosa into the rotation. If they decide on reinforcements, the most likely candidate would be Brazelton, who was to make his third start for Triple-A Durham on Saturday.

Piniella also plans to tinker with the batting order. Among the ideas he is considering is dropping Rocco Baldelli from the second spot to cleanup against left-handed pitchers, though he is concerned about putting too much pressure on the 21-year-old rookie.

WELCOME BACK: Shortstop Rey Ordonez, who was traded by the Mets after calling New York fans "stupid" near the end of last season, was booed loudly each at-bat.

Ordonez, who has apologized several times and said the remarks were made out of frustration, didn't seem to mind. "Not too bad," he said.

OOPS: It was a odd day for the Rays all around. Joe Kennedy was called for a balk in the seventh inning when he dragged his foot in the dirt during his windup and the ball came loose, dribbling to the plate. "That's happened before," Kennedy said, "but not in a game."

In the eighth, Carl Crawford seemed camped under a fly ball, only to have it hit him on the right shoulder. "It was a tough sun today," Crawford said. "I saw it go up and then I just lost it. And I had on dark shades."

Z-MAN: Victor Zambrano could be in danger of losing his spot in the starting rotation. He makes his third start today, having allowed 12 hits and 10 walks, leading to 11 runs, in 10 innings over his first two.

"He needs to be more aggressive in the strike zone," Piniella said. "His stuff is good. He's got really good stuff. I don't think he really knows how good of stuff he has. You've got to trust it. Once he learns to he can be a very successful major-league pitcher."

MISCELLANY: Baldelli extended his hitting streak to 11 games, breaking the team record for the start of a big-league career. Today, he faces Roger Clemens, who struck him out four times last Sunday. Since 1990 there have been two longer streaks, Colorado's Juan Pierre went 16 games in 2000 and Montreal's Ryan McGuire went 12 games in 1997. ... Bobby Seay was the other bright spot, getting Hideki Matsui to ground into a double play to end the seventh. ... Crawford's hitting streak ended at 10 games.

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