By MARC TOPKIN, ANTONYA ENGLISH
Published May 29, 2004
ST. PETERSBURG - Aubrey Huff is taking things slowly. A hit here, a couple there, four Friday. His average is creeping up, to a season-high .253, and his confidence is growing, too.
"I'm just trying to get some hits," he said. "I'm not trying to do anything more than that. It's been working out the last couple weeks. I think early on I was probably just trying to see how far I could hit the ball and drive it. Right now I'm just trying to get some confidence by getting some hits and let the power come."
After matching his career high with the four hits, including his fifth home run, Huff is hitting .347 (25-for-72) over his past 18 games and has raised his average from .186.
"At least it's respectable now," he said. "I just want to keep going, keep battling. When you were slumping as bad as I was you can't get it back in one day."
HEY, ABBOTT: Paul Abbott is headed back to the rotation, possibly to start Tuesday in Minnesota in place of Jason Standridge.
Abbott was moved to the bullpen last week after going 0-4 with an 11.49 ERA in his past four starts but made enough adjustments in bullpen sessions to warrant another opportunity.
He looked better in 21/3 innings of relief Friday, allowing no hits, striking out four and walking two. Most important, he seemed to rediscover his changeup and fine-tune his cut fastball.
"For us to get contributions from Abbott he belongs in the rotation," manager Lou Piniella said. "So we're going to give it another whirl."
GOING DOWN AND UP: To make room for Fred McGriff, rookie outfielder/DH Jonny Gomes, 23, was optioned to Triple-A Durham. Gomes was 1-for-14 with six strikeouts in five games as a DH. He didn't play in the outfield because of a lingering groin strain. "He got some experience but he needs to go down there and get some at-bats and needs to work on getting on top of that high ball a little bit," Piniella said.
Speedy outfielder Joey Gathright was promoted from Double-A Montgomery to Durham. Gathright hit a team-leading .341 for the Biscuits with 10 stolen bases in 32 games.
GAME ON: As soon as the game is over tonight, the Tropicana Field Brew Pub will show the Lightning game and offer special prices on drinks.
IT'S PERSONAL: Yankees pitcher Kevin Brown wouldn't say why he left the team and had his scheduled Thursday start pushed back to tonight.
"The pitching rotation worked out, so it allowed me to take care of something I had to of a personal nature," Brown said. "Hopefully we can leave it at that. Things worked out and nobody had to be pushed up in the rotation. It's over with and hopefully I'll be throwing tomorrow."
GO MO: Yankees pitcher Mariano Rivera became the 17th player to earn 300 career saves.
"I don't pay attention to (the number). I don't really care about that," Rivera said. "Personally it's a good number, a good accomplishment. As you get closer and closer, you wait for it to happen and then move on. ... We won today and that's the biggest thing."
Rivera is the first Yankees pitcher with 300 saves.
"In those 300, probably the most significant have been in the World Series and in the postseason," Yankees manager Joe Torre said. "When you talk about his career and why he'll go into the Hall of Fame, it's (because of) postseason. He's been second to none in terms of that."
MISCELLANY: Carl Crawford had three hits, making him the 12th active player to surpass 300 before turning 23. ... Rocco Baldelli extended his hitting streak to nine games, longest among the Rays this season. ... Tino Martinez and Doug Waechter will sign autographs at 4:45 p.m. today. ... Toby Hall had his first double since March 31. ... Alex Rodriguez reached base in his 36th straight game.