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Standridge learns value of clear head

MARC TOPKIN
Published May 27, 2004

ST. PETERSBURG - One of the reasons Jason Standridge is doing better on the mound is because he's thinking less.

Standridge, who makes his first start of the season today, said he learned during his recovery from September shoulder surgery to not worry about things he couldn't control and focus on things he could, like making the right pitch at the right time.

"I changed my mental approach," Standridge said. "I made it to where I wasn't thinking as much. I used to be a big-time thinker, trying to figure things out, just stupid, dumb stuff I couldn't control. Now I just kind of block those things out and concentrate on what I can control."

Though Standridge throws the same pitches (fastball, slider, curve and changeup), he is doing so with confidence.

"I don't have to think about things like is this pitch going to work because my arm is hurting," Standridge said. "I just started going after guys and not worrying about anything else, not even worrying about the results. I realized that once I let the ball go I can't control what happens."

Standridge, the Rays' top pick in the 1997 draft, went 2-0 with a 4.06 ERA in six minor-league rehab starts and made an impressive 2004 Rays debut May 19 with 31/3 scoreless innings.

"Coming back the way I came back, my confidence is up because of the way I've been throwing the ball," he said.

Standridge is moving into the rotation in place of struggling veteran Paul Abbott and will get the chance to stay a while.

"We're going to give him I would think three or four starts and evaluate him pretty well," manager Lou Piniella said.

Standridge will be making his 20th big-league appearance (ninth start) and is still seeking his first win. His father, Wayne, has been at many of his games but is not expected at Tropicana Field today because he has been on a mission trip to Mexico helping build a church.

STREAK BUSTER: The run closer Danys Baez gave up in the ninth was the first allowed by Rays relievers since May 18, a team-record streak of 272/3 innings.

"Impressive," Piniella said. "That's pretty darn good. It really is. And why? We've been aggressive in the strike zone."

BALDELLI SORE: Rocco Baldelli was limited to DH duties for a second straight night due to tightness in his right thigh. He beat out an infield single, extending his hitting streak to seven games, and stole a base in the first but said he knows he isn't 100 percent. "I still feel it dragging a little bit," he said. "I can feel it."

HOME BOYS: After spending much of the first seven weeks on the road, the Rays have enjoyed their first extended homestand. Besides the chance to relax and get settled, they also have had the opportunity to get some extra practice.

"We've gotten a lot of work in," Piniella said. "We've had extra hitting every day at 4 o'clock and we've had as many as five or six and as few as three or four every day."

GOLDEN MOMENT: Jose Cruz will receive his 2003 Gold Glove award before the June 9 game against the Giants, his former team. Rawlings will give out 22 Gold Glove series Cruz-autographed gloves to kids at the game. The first 5,000 fans get Cruz mini-bobblehead dolls.

MISCELLANY: The Yankees changed their rotation for this weekend, with Kevin Brown, who has beaten the Rays three times this season, now scheduled for Saturday. Javier Vazquez moved up to Friday in place of Jose Contreras. ... The Rays scored two runs or fewer for the 17th time. ... Robert Fick snapped an 0-for-18 streak and had his first two-hit game since April 23. ... Twins closer Joe Nathan hasn't allowed a hit since May 7; hitters are 0-for-25. Todd Ritchie, trying to work his way back to the big leagues after shoulder surgery, pitched five innings for Charleston, allowing four runs on 10 hits while striking out nine. ... Kansas University first baseman Ryan Baty, who finished his three-year career one shy of the school record for hits (274) and homers (29), signed a minor-league contract.

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