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Need for lefty loses to need for innings

By TOM JONES and MARC TOPKIN
Published June 27, 2003

ST. PETERSBURG - At the moment, the Devil Rays have no left-handed pitchers on their active roster.

But that's all right with manager Lou Piniella.

The Rays designated for assignment their only lefty, reliever Mike Venafro, because they needed the bullpen to work more innings, and called up Carlos Reyes to work in long relief.

"We need more innings out of our bullpen," Piniella said. "That was the big reason."

Venafro has been used throughout his career primarily to face one or two left-handed hitters, and he hadn't been doing it particularly well, allowing a .265 average.

"It seems apparent that their needs are different than what I can offer them," Venafro said. "With the stretch they've had, they need a long guy. And it's not that I couldn't do it, but I've never been trained to do it."

Signed at the end of spring training after being released by Atlanta, Venafro pitched 19 innings over 24 appearances, going 1-0 with a 4.74 ERA. The Rays have 10 days to trade, release or pass him through waivers, and he said he hoped to end up with another big-league team. "I'm well-rested," he said.

The Rays have several left-handed relievers in the minors, but until they are ready Piniella will use righty Al Levine, who has held left-handed hitters to a .148 average.

HE'S BACK: When Reyes was outrighted to Triple-A Durham on June 10, the Tampa resident, 34, said he expected to be back soon, and he was right.

Reyes, who was 0-2 with a 5.06 ERA in three appearances for the Rays, had pitched extremely well in Durham, compiling a 7-1 record and 1.50 ERA while walking four and striking out 50 in 72 innings.

Reyes was excited about the promotion, though a bit unprepared. He was in Tampa when he got the word, having flown home Tuesday to attend funeral services for his grandmother, but his equipment was in Durham and won't arrive until today. He borrowed cleats and workout clothes and "found an old second baseman's glove I had in the garage."

WALK THIS WAY: Jason Standridge worked a career-high seven innings but still came up short of his first major-league victory. He was bothered by one Yankees at-bat, and it wasn't Jason Giambi's two-run homer in the first or Raul Mondesi's two-run homer in the seventh.

It was the walk to Todd Zeile just before Giambi's homer.

"The difference in the game was a four-pitch walk in the first inning," Standridge said. "We'd still be playing right now. I'm going to give up hits and home runs, but what I do have control over is walking guys. ... Walks are something I can't live with."

Piniella wasn't nearly as hard on Standridge, who allowed five hits with three walks and three strikeouts in his fourth start.

"He competed well and threw the ball well," Piniella said. "I'm pleased with the way he's coming along."

MINOR MATTERS: Catcher Pete LaForest has six homers in 11 games at Durham and is hitting .366. ... Double-A Orlando pitchers Bartolome Fortunato, Jim Magrane and Jose Veras were selected for the Southern League All-Star Game. ... Matt White is 0-3 with a 6.07 ERA in six starts for the O-Rays.

MISCELLANY: Damian Rolls was 7-for-14 in the four-game series, including three doubles, three homers and seven RBIs. ... Derek Jeter celebrated his 29th birthday by going 0-for-5. ... Mike Mussina has 10 wins against the Rays and six at the Trop, most of any opponent. ... Joe Kennedy will make a rehabilitation start Sunday for Orlando and rejoin the rotation July 5. ... Thursday's paid crowd of 17,132 was the largest since opening week. ... Home-plate umpire Kerwin Danley left in the fourth after aggravating a shoulder injury. Second-base ump Wally Bell replaced him. ... A few spots are open in Monday's Rays of Hope golf tournament at Fox Hollow Golf Club in New Port Richey. Call (727) 825-3471 for information.

[Last modified June 27, 2003, 10:08:30]

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