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Home-run pop by Cruz may be pop's present

MARC TOPKIN
Published June 20, 2004

PHOENIX - Jose Cruz Jr. could have quite the Father's Day present for his dad.

With his next home run, the Devil Rays rightfielder will match his father's career total of 165.

"That's nice for bragging rights at the house," Cruz said. "But he already told me I have to catch him in RBIs and hits. That will be tough."

Jose Cruz played in the big leagues from 1970-88, mostly with Houston, and was a two-time All-Star and finished in the top 10 of the NL MVP voting three times.

He retired with a .284 average, 2,251 hits, 1,077 RBIs and the 165 homers.

"I followed his career as much as I could. He retired when I was like 14 years old," Cruz said. "He was very influential in me getting to the big leagues."

Cruz went into play Saturday with a .251 career average, 875 hits, 490 RBIs and 164 homers.

The senior Cruz is the first-base coach for the Astros, and Cruz said it would be fun to someday be on the same team with his dad. They were on the same team once during the Puerto Rico winter league.

"I think it would be a fun thing," Cruz said. "He wouldn't have to call to ask me how I did."

WAECHTER WOES: Doug Waechter's return to the rotation will be delayed since the strained tendon in his right middle finger isn't getting much better.

"He really isn't coming along as well as we had hoped," Piniella said. "It's starting to be a little bit of a concern. Not that it's not going to get any better, but that it might be a little bit longer than we had hoped for. He's doing all he can, but he still feels discomfort, and as long as he feels discomfort he can't do much."

Waechter hasn't pitched since June 8; the Rays hoped he would be back by the end of this week.

CARTER UPDATE: Reliever Lance Carter rested his inflamed right shoulder again Saturday but plans to play catch today and hopes to be available to pitch Tuesday when the Rays open a three-game series in Toronto.

"I didn't think it was a big deal," Carter said. "It was one of those things were it was just irritated and needed a little bit of time to calms down."

To bolster the thin bullpen, the Rays shuffled their rotation. By moving Victor Zambrano 's start back from Tuesday to Wednesday, they will have him available for middle relief work today. Chad Gaudin will pitch Tuesday and John Halama on Thursday.

HAPPY FATHER'S DAY: Geoff Blum got a surprise for his first Father's Day - his wife and 6-month-old daughter drove out from California to spend the weekend with him.

For Blum, it was a significant occasion because Mia Lea spent three weeks in the hospital with bacterial meningitis.

"As soon as we got to Florida (for spring training) we found out she was sick," Blum said. "We made it through that, and she's a strong little kid."

MARCHING ON: Passing Al Lopez on the all-time wins list was a significant event because Piniella considered Lopez an inspiration. With Saturday's win Piniella tied former Cardinals and Yankees manager Miller Huggins at 1,413.

"I don't know anything at all about Miller Huggins except that you've got Miller Huggins Field (now Huggins-Stengel), in St. Pete and when I was a kid we'd go over there and watch some games once in a while," Piniella said.

MISCELLANY: Piniella said if top minor-league prospects B.J. Upton and Joey Gathright are going to be promoted this season they will likely come up shortly after the mid-July All-Star break. ... Fred McGriff , who has 493 homers but none at Bank One Ballpark, is scheduled to start at first base today. ... The Rays were 21-34 (a .382 winning percentage) when they started their winning streak;

the most recent team to start a winning streak of at least 10 games with a percentage that low was the 1985 Twins, who were 2-9.
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