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Up next: Yankees

By MARC TOPKIN, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published June 17, 2003

SCOUTING REPORT: They're not the team that tore through April and looked to be in the express lane to October, but they're still the Yankees.

And just in time for the Rays' visit they appear to have righted themselves after an extended slump: four wins in a row since being no-hit by Houston on Wednesday and five of six.

The Yankees have slipped to the middle of the pack offensively without Bernie Williams and Nick Johnson in the lineup and with Jason Giambi struggling, leading to the acquisition of Ruben Sierra and a bevy of rumors that bigger deals are coming.

But they have plenty of weapons with Derek Jeter back from injury, Hideki Matsui coming around, Alfonso Soriano hitting for impressive power (18 home runs) and Jorge Posada evolving into one of their most productive players.

Though the bullpen has been vulnerable, if not flammable, at times, the starting rotation has been a huge reason for their continued success, ranking third in the league with a 34-21 record and an ERA around 4.00.

DISABLED LIST: RHP Jose Contreras, RHP Steve Karsay, 1B Nick Johnson, CF Bernie Williams, RHP Jon Lieber.

CONNECTIONS: Yankees backup C John Flaherty and OF Bubba Trammell were original Devil Rays. ... Bench coach Don Zimmer is a longtime Treasure Island resident. ... LHP Sterling Hitchcock is an Armwood High graduate. ... LHP David Wells lives in Clearwater. ... Bullpen coach Rich Monteleone is a Tampa native and Tampa Catholic product. ... Rays manager Lou Piniella was a star player, coach, manager and GM for the Yankees.

SEASON SERIES: The Yankees lead 3-2, including a split of two games at Yankee Stadium in April. Overall, the Yankees lead 54-24, 29-9 in New York.

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