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Baldelli sees 2 streaks end

By MARC TOPKIN, Times Staff Writer

© St. Petersburg Times
published April 18, 2003


BOSTON -- Rookie Rocco Baldelli left two streaks at frigid Fenway Park.

His 13-game career-starting hitting streak died when he went 0-for-3, striking out and fouling out against Pedro Martinez, then grounding out in the ninth against Mike Timlin.

But when Baldelli took Ball 4 from Martinez in the second inning, it was the first time he'd walked in the big leagues, ending a streak of 64 plate appearances without a free pass.

"I really didn't worry about either one," Baldelli said. "I'm not really thinking about it now. I only knew about (the hitting streak) from talking to you guys. After a week I found out. When you're in the middle of playing the first weeks of the season, that was like the furthest thing I could have been thinking of."

The hitting streak was the second longest at the start of a major-league career since 1990 (Juan Pierre hit in 16 for Colorado in 2000) and is a Rays rookie record and the fifth longest in team history for any player.

"He had a nice streak ... pretty impressive," Rays manager Lou Piniella said. "I was hoping he'd get a hit his last time up. He'll get a new one going (tonight)."

The walkless streak was the longest at the start of a career since teammate Carl Crawford went 92 plate appearances last summer.

Actually, it was Baldelli's first walk since Aug. 4, when he was with Double-A Orlando. He made 98 plate appearances in 23 games for Triple-A Durham without seeing Ball 4.

Baldelli also lost a team record-tying streak of seven games with an RBI. He does still have intact a 14-game streak of reaching base.

Baldelli was the first rookie since Montreal's Coco Laboy in 1969 to get 24 hits in the first 14 games of the season. He also matched the Rays overall record, tying Quinton McCracken and Fred McGriff's 1998 performances.

LEE DELAYED: First baseman Travis Lee's sore right oblique muscle is feeling better, but probably not well enough for him to return to the lineup.

Lee hasn't swung a bat since aggravating the area in Sunday's game, receiving extensive treatment with ice and electric stimulation. The Devil Rays had hoped he would be able to play tonight in Baltimore, but Lee likely will need at least another few days.

"When I bend over it doesn't bother me, but I haven't really tested it," Lee said. "I hope I wake up and can swing a bat and everything's fine, but you don't know. I'll just take it day by day, by day."

Lee will attempt some easy swings at soft-toss pitches before tonight's game, but the Rays also will be concerned about the effects of the chilly temperatures.

"He's getting better," Piniella said. "This cold weather is hindering how much he can do. I think (today) he's going to hit soft toss and then we'll get a pretty good gauge on him."

PARQUE IN MAY?: Left-hander Jim Parque, placed on the disabled list with shoulder tendinitis after two rough starts, is throwing well at the minor-league complex but probably won't return when eligible April 24.

Piniella said he would like Parque to make one or two rehabilitation starts in the minors.

"There's no sense rushing him back if he's not totally well," Piniella said. "Let's find out by having him pitch a game or two in the minors. I think it would be prudent to do that for him and for us."

BAT-MAN: One of the biggest pleasant surprises for the Rays has been the offensive performance of shortstop Rey Ordonez, who has a .298 average, two home runs and a team-leading 12 RBIs, matching Texas' Alex Rodriguez for the most by AL shortstops.

"Outside of the fact that he gets overaggressive at times, he's done a fine job," Piniella said. "We'd like to see him get just a little more selective at times, but outside of that he's done well."

MISCELLANY: The loss was the 500th in Rays history; they have 323 wins. ... It was the first time they were shut out this season. ... Martinez is 8-2 vs. the Rays with a 1.96 ERA. ... Rays went 3-9 in the 12 games vs. the Red Sox and Yankees.

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