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Baldelli reluctantly goes on disabled list

By DAMIAN CRISTODERO
Published August 15, 2004

ARLINGTON, Texas - Rocco Baldelli did not want to go on the 15-day disabled list. The Devil Rays centerfielder even lobbied against it after Friday's game against the Rangers, but manager Lou Piniella said it was best.

Baldelli left the game after a chronically strained right quadriceps acted up. Baldelli could only jog to first after aggravating it as he broke from the batter's box on a first-inning ground ball that turned into a double play.

"I respect their decisions. They have to do what they have to do," Baldelli said. "But I said, "If you gave me some time, I might be able to tell you.' They said they couldn't wait."

"Let's get him really well and see if he can give us a good last five weeks of the season," Piniella said.

Baldelli is eligible to return Aug. 28. Until then, Piniella said Joey Gathright, called up from Triple-A Durham, will get most of the centerfield duties.

On a team desperate for consistent offense, Baldelli will be missed. He has batted either second, third or fourth for most of the season and is batting .279 with 10 home runs and 53 RBIs. He also has a league-high nine outfield assists.

But Baldelli said he has been only 75 percent since straining the muscle during a mid June series at San Diego and aggravating it the next week at Toronto.

"It's gotten to the point where I really can't run down the first-base line," Baldelli said. "So there's no need for me to be out there playing a big-league baseball game like someone who can't run. But after taking 15 days off, I think it will be pretty healthy for the last month."

MARTINEZ, CRUZ CLEAR WAIVERS: A story on ESPN.com says first baseman Tino Martinez and outfielder Jose Cruz cleared waivers, meaning they can be traded. The nonwaiver trade deadline passed July 31.

General manager Chuck LaMar declined to comment.

Martinez is batting .274 with 18 home runs and 55 RBIs and has been a mainstay for the young franchise. Cruz, solid defensively, is batting .236 with 15 home runs and 54 RBIs.

WAITING GAME: Leftfielder Carl Crawford said his representatives have countered the contract offer made by the team. That means he and Baldelli are waiting for responses.

"We're just waiting for them to get back to us," Crawford said.

"The ball is with them," Baldelli said. "There's no rush."

Both were offered contracts believed to be for six years and about $23-million. LaMar had no comment other than, "Discussions are ongoing."

Baldelli's agent, Scott Boras, agreed.

"Chuck LaMar and I had a dialogue, and I gave him a proposal," he said. "They'll get back to me."

THIRD TIME A CHARM: Gathright said he had 17 friends and family members in the stands for Saturday's game. His parents flew from New Orleans.

This is the third callup for the 23-year-old, who said the previous two make this one more of a business trip. It also helps knowing Piniella said he will play consistently.

"It takes a lot of pressure off you knowing you're going to be playing and getting some repetitions," said Gathright, who hit .349 with 31 steals in 45 games for Durham. "All the pressure is off. I know what I have to do; just go out there and play."

"He gives us some speed," Piniella said, "and a good contact bat."

ODDS AND ENDS: First-round pick Jeff Niemann, who attended nearby Rice, watched the game with LaMar. ... Shortstop B.J. Upton became the first 19-year-old to bat third since Atlanta's Andruw Jones on Sept. 24, 1996. ... The Rays released lefty Damian Moss from Durham. Moss began the season as Tampa Bay's fifth starter but was optioned on May 4. He was 5-9 with a 5.87 ERA in 20 games with the Bulls. ... With Friday's home run, Martinez tied Anaheim's Tim Salmon and Toronto's Carlos Delgado for most homers at Ameriquest Field with 17. ... The Rays are 2-4 on Friday the 13th.

[Last modified August 15, 2004, 00:06:16]

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