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Roster shakeup might include McGriff's exit
By MARC TOPKIN
Published July 17, 2004
ST. PETERSBURG - The Devil Rays are considering several changes to their roster as soon as this afternoon.
One possible outcome would be a decision to part ways with veteran Fred McGriff, giving him the option of being released or announcing his retirement.
McGriff, 40, rejoined the Rays on May 28 to pursue 500 home runs but is hitting .181 in 27 games and has been stalled at 493 homers since June 17.
"It's not an easy situation," manager Lou Piniella said before Friday's game. "The problem here is that we've got a lot of the same type (of players). There isn't anybody pulling for Fred the way I have. At the same time, I knew it would be difficult."
The Rays have been talking about calling up several young players from Triple A, and it's possible infielder Jorge Cantu and outfielder Joey Gathright could be in uniform tonight. Both were not scheduled to play in Durham's game Friday, which was postponed by rain.
To make room, the Rays could option Damian Rolls to the minors or try to trade Geoff Blum or Rey Sanchez.
EXTRA SPECIAL: Carl Crawford can be pretty effective when he hits the ball on the ground and runs fast. But he wants to do more than that, and he's doing a good job of showing it.
With two triples Thursday and one Friday, Crawford is one behind Anaheim's Chone Figgins (a Brandon product), who leads the majors with 13. Add 17 doubles and four homers, and Crawford shares the team lead in extra-base hits with Jose Cruz at 33.
"I like getting extra-base hits," Crawford said. "I've always said I wasn't going to be a slap hitter the whole time I'm up here. That was just a way to make things happen until I learned how to hit better and to drive the ball better. Now that I'm learning how to drive the ball, you don't see me waving at it as much."
Crawford leads the majors with 38 steals and said he'd like to double up by catching Figgins in the triples race.
"It seems like Chone looks at me every time I get close and says it's time to hit another one," Crawford said.
Eventually, he'd like to make a run at leading the league in runs scored. After Friday's game, he was tied for fourth with 65.
Speed will always be part of Crawford's game. He created the Rays' first run Friday, beating out what could have been a double-play ball then scoring on Rocco Baldelli's double.
"I just try to keep hustling," Crawford said. "I knew I didn't get a hit right there, and it would have been easy for me to say, "Damn,' and kind of run easy down the first-base line and let them turn the double play. But I just wanted to try to keep the inning alive because you never know what could happen."
FREE TICKETS: Checkers drive-ins are giving away 5,000 tickets to Monday's game against the Yankees. Fans who buy a Brickyard 400 combo meal today or Sunday can get two upper deck tickets at: Clearwater (3150 East Bay Drive, 1595 Missouri Ave.); Pinellas Park (8199 U.S. 19 N); Tampa (4530 W Gandy, 1509 E Fowler) and Venice (1721 Tamiami Trail). ... Fans who donate five or more items to the Rays' wives annual canned food drive today and Sunday get a voucher for a free outfield seat to a July 27-29 game against the Royals.
MISCELLANY: The shutout was the Rays' third of the season. ... Crawford will be featured in today's All-Star episode of This Week in Baseball on Ch. 13 at 12:30 p.m. ... Danys Baez picked up his 18th save in his 20th opportunity. ... Hitting coach Lee Elia turned 67 Friday. ... Durham outfielder Matt Diaz's hitting streak ended Thursday at 22 games. ... Senior adviser Don Zimmer will sign copies of his new book, The Zen of Zim, at 11 a.m. today at the team store at WestShore Plaza. ... The Rays' five-game losing streak was their longest since May 14-19.