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Staff's stats earn Fordyce more time

By MARC TOPKIN
Published May 5, 2004

ARLINGTON, Texas - Brook Fordyce is going to get the chance to play regularly as the Rays' catcher. And if he does well, he might become the Rays' regular catcher.

Fordyce started again Tuesday, the fourth time in the past seven games he was in the lineup ahead of Toby Hall, who had been the primary starter.

Manager Lou Piniella wouldn't discuss why or how he planned to divide the playing time, but it's clear he likes what Fordyce is doing behind the plate, and what the pitchers are doing when he is there.

"I've been pleased with the way he's handled the pitching staff and the way he's called the game," Piniella said. "I like the way he takes of a game as a catcher."

The statistics back up Piniella's observations:

With Fordyce behind the plate, Rays pitchers have a 2.83 ERA. With Hall catching, they have a 5.94 ERA.

In the eight games Fordyce has started, the Rays are 4-4. In the 17 games Hall has started, the Rays are 5-12.

Piniella wants - actually demands - his catchers to run the game, and tends to hold them responsible for pitch selection and location. Last year, he and Hall had several long conversations on the subject.

Fordyce, who has played parts of nine seasons in the majors and has been a starter for the White Sox and Orioles, has considerably more experience behind the plate. But there is a tradeoff because Hall, in his second full season, is the better offensive player, hitting .291 to Fordyce's .179.

"We're going to play him a little bit and see how he does," Piniella said.

HERNANDEZ HOSPITALIZED: Pitching coach Chuck Hernandez was taken to an Arlington hospital just before game time for tests after experiencing pain and swelling in his right calf.

Tests ruled out a blood clot or anything else serious, and Hernandez returned to the clubhouse around the sixth inning. He iced his leg and was to see a doctor late Tuesday.

"I'm okay," he said. "It was like a cramp and it wouldn't relax."

Senior adviser Don Zimmer missed his first trip of the season, staying home to take care of some medical tests. Hitting coach Lee Elia missed two weeks after having his gall bladder removed.

PAIN IN THE NECK: Rocco Baldelli's neck was still stiff, so much so that he was scratched from the lineup entirely. He pinch hit in the eighth and hopes to be able to play tonight.

MOSS STICKS: The Rays took Damian Moss off their roster after his latest poor pitching performance, and no other team wanted him either.

Moss is 27, left-handed and due only about $400,000 in salary, but he cleared waivers on Tuesday and accepted an outright assignment to Triple-A Durham. The Rays, who gave him a $350,000 signing bonus and a $500,000 salary, hope he can improve with regular work at Triple A.

"Maybe he gets himself straightened out there, gets sharper," Piniella said.

MINOR MATTERS: Outfielder Midre Cummings was chosen the Rays' minor-league player of the month for April and left-hander Chris Seddon was named the top pitcher.

Cummings, 32, who played parts of nine seasons in the major leagues, hit .351 with nine doubles, four homers and 19 RBIs in 20 games for Triple-A Durham.

Seddon, a fifth-round pick in the 2001 draft, is 2-0 with a 0.98 ERA in five starts, striking out 28 in 272/3 innings.

Delmon Young has four homers, 16 RBIs and a .288 average in 23 games for Class A Charleston.

MISCELLANY: The two RBIs by Geoff Blum were the first by Rays second basemen this season. ... Blum last hit homers from both sides of the plate in the same game on July 5, 2001. ... Aubrey Huff played in his 300th consecutive game, the second longest streak among active players behind Miguel Tejada (618). ... The Rangers had won five straight. ... The Rays tonight can get their first back-to-back wins in their 26th game. Since 1961, only six teams went deeper into the season without doing so.

[Last modified May 5, 2004, 01:17:05]

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