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Minor-leaguers might get their chance soon

By MARC TOPKIN, Times Staff Writer
Published May 9, 2004

ANAHEIM, Calif. - Friday night, manager Lou Piniella and his coaches stayed late at Angel Stadium watching video and talking about how to make some of their hitters better.

Saturday afternoon, Piniella talked to general manager Chuck LaMar about getting some better hitters.

"If we continue to struggle, you have to start looking at some options," Piniella said.

The Rays likely would look first to their minor-league system, and there are several who could be in line for a promotion.

Among those Piniella noted were shortstop B.J. Upton, who is fifth in the Double-A Southern League with a .352 average; outfielder Jonny Gomes, who came off the Triple-A disabled list with a flurry and has eight homers, 19 RBIs and a .348 average in 13 games at Durham; and infielder Jorge Cantu, who has a .326 average, eight homers and 23 RBIs in 24 games at Durham.

"Offensively we don't have that many options, but we just can't stay like this forever either," Piniella said.

"We're in May. I've been well pleased with the effort I've gotten here. I've got no complaints. The problem is that we can't continue to average three runs a game. We can't do it.

"I think we're leading the league in fielding or tied for the lead. Our pitching has been good enough for us to have more wins, obviously. But we never thought that we would struggle this much offensively."

The Rays have some pitching depth at Durham too. Rob Bell is 5-0 with a 1.67 ERA and averaging a strikeout an inning, and Jorge Sosa has 19 strikeouts in eight innings.

ON THE MARK: Mark Hendrickson is doing a better job in the field by thinking about being on the basketball court.

Hendrickson, who played four seasons in the NBA before concentrating on baseball, hardly was to blame for the Rays' 1-0 loss Friday, scattering seven hits over seven innings.

It was his second straight strong outing since returning to the rotation with orders from Piniella to be more aggressive.

"For me it was just playing with a little more conviction, kind of the way I used to play basketball. I hadn't been pitching the way I played basketball, at least not the first couple starts, and I just got back to it and pitched a lot better," Hendrickson said.

"You have to be an SOB on the mound. It's fine to be nice guy off the field, but on the court, between the lines ... I've never been an emotional guy when I pitch, and I'm not saying I'm going to change and be rah-rah, but internally it was kind of a wakeup call."

The Rays didn't do much to help Hendrickson, managing only three singles off Anaheim starter John Lackey.

DUE FOR TWO: The Rays will go at least 31 games without back-to-back wins. Research by Rays PR chief Rick Vaughn to 1900 found only 10 teams that went deeper.

Z-MAN: Victor Zambrano starts today, five days after a career-high 134 pitches in a seven-inning no-decision at Texas. Zambrano hasn't won since April11, but it's not solely his fault. The Rays scored eight in his past four games. If anything Zambrano is evolving into something of a strikeout artist, 18 in his past two starts and ranking second in the league with 42. "You talk to different hitters around the league and they'll tell you he's got real good stuff, and he's starting to hone in on that," Piniella said.

MISCELLANY: After going a team-record tying eight games without an error, the Rays made two - Paul Abbott dropping a toss at first base and Aubrey Huff making an errant throw. ... Today is the 1,000th game in team history. First-base coach Billy Hatcher is the only Ray who has seen them all; trainer Ken Crenshaw has missed one. ... The Angels have won eight straight and have the best record in the majors at 21-10.

[Last modified May 9, 2004, 01:41:11]

Today's lineup
Rays
  • How much losing can a winner take?
  • GM LaMar trying for optimism
  • Got a minute? Doug Waechter
  • Angels pound Rays in 7th
  • Minor-leaguers might get their chance soon


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  • One down
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