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Easley carrying on after Motor City run

Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published May 2, 2003

MINNEAPOLIS - Damion Easley has been around baseball long enough to know that it's first and foremost a business.

A favorite son of an organization one day turns into the forgotten one the next. Loyalty to a player often is based on things such as production, payroll and potential.

Easley knows that. Still, he has bittersweet feelings about returning to Detroit with the Rays today. From 1996 through 2002, Easley gave his heart and soul to the Tigers. He hit 20 or more homers in a season three times. He drove in 100 runs once and more than 60 three other times. He was an All-Star in 1998.

Then this spring, out of nowhere, Easley, 33, was given a pat on the back and a shove out the door.

"It's a situation where, obviously, they were going to make some changes, so I don't know how I feel about going back," Easley said. "It is part of the game, but it is tough. It's a tough pill to swallow ... to hear them say, "You're not good enough to be on our team.' I know I'm probably taking that to drastic measures, but still, it's hard, especially when you don't see it coming."

For the most part, though, Easley tries to take the positive out of his Detroit experience. After five seasons with the Angels, Easley went to the Tigers and put his career back on track. He arguably was the American League's best second baseman for a spell in the late 1990s.

"They gave me the opportunity to reestablish myself, and that's why I have a fond appreciation for Detroit," Easley said.

So, looking back, he would've done it all again even if he knew how it was going to end in Motown.

"It's what you want to make of it," Easley said. "The thing is, when you're taking your lumps early, you want to see it through. You want to enjoy the champagne at the end, rather than always getting knocked on the head. So I wanted to see it through, but it didn't work out."

The only downer is Easley will go into this weekend's series at far less than 100 percent. He still is hobbled by a sore right knee after a collision last week.

OH, DOCTOR: Hall of Fame announcer Ernie Harwell, the former longtime legendary announcer for the Tigers, will work the seventh inning on Rays radio tonight.

Harwell was asked by Rays managing general partner Vince Naimoli. He will do the inning with the Rays radio team of Paul Olden and Charlie Slowes.

COOPERSTOWN CALLING: The Baseball Hall of Fame contacted Rays rookie Rocco Baldelli on Thursday about getting an item or two after Baldelli's historic first month.

Baldelli is believed to have set a major-league record for rookies by collecting 40 hits through April.

The Rays had boxed some of Baldelli's tools, such as his bat, batting gloves, helmet and shoes, as well as the two balls Baldelli used for hits Wednesday. Baldelli will go through the items when he returns to St. Petersburg after this road trip and talk to the Hall people to see which items they might want.

ROCKING IN ORLANDO: Reliever John Rocker is finished with his extended spring training and was sent to Double-A Orlando on Thursday. He was scheduled to pitch for the Orlando Rays on Thursday night.

The Rays signed Rocker, most recently known for controversial statements about gays, minorities and New Yorkers in a 1999 Sports Illustrated article, to a minor-league contract last month.

MISCELLANY: The Rays have lost nine of their past 10 road games. ... Steve Parris, who pitched five innings of five-hit, three-run ball, is winless in his past 10 starts. ... Lance Carter had his second blown save of the season. ... The Rays lost for the first time when leading after eight innings. They are 1-2 in extra inning games. ... Left-hander Jim Parque, out since April 10 with left shoulder tendinitis, may return to the rotation next week.

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