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HRs still hound Waechter
By MARC TOPKIN
Published March 24, 2005
VERO BEACH - Most of the pitches Doug Waechter threw Wednesday were good. But, as has often happened, the couple that were bad were horrid.
The two home runs Waechter gave up in the seventh inning, back-to-back blasts by David Ross and Hee-Seop Choi with a strong wind, ran his spring total to six in 13 innings and raised his ERA to 6.92.
"Yes, the wind was blowing to rightfield kind of hard," manager Lou Piniella said. "But nobody else gave up any that way."
Waechter, who may be headed to Triple-A Durham to open the season, said he just needs to make a few small adjustments. But home runs have been a big problem: He gave up 31 in 992/3 innings last season between the majors and Triple A.
"Right now I feel like I'm throwing the ball well," he said. "I'm going out and having good outings except for one or two pitches, and as soon as I get rid of those I'll be fine."
HELP, ANSWERS WANTED: Because the Rays are actively looking for help at several positions - including a starting outfielder, a left-handed DH, a utility infielder and possibly a second baseman and backup catcher - Piniella is holding off on making, or at least revealing, his decisions on several positions.
"Everything's up in the air here with 10 days to go," Piniella said. "It's more unsettling than any team I've been around. It's unsettling only because you don't know what can happen."
For example, Piniella has been impressed so far with outfielder Alex Sanchez, who was signed last week after being released by Detroit. But until Piniella knows what other outfielders the Rays might get, he can't say for sure if Sanchez will be a starter, or a reserve, or even on the team.
"I know what I want to do, I'm just waiting to see what develops before we make all the determinations," he said. "A lot of things can change here because of a trade or an acquisition."
Piniella talked with general manager Chuck LaMar before the game but gave no indication if the Rays were close to a deal. But with a clubhouse of anxious players, several undefined roles and opening day 11 days away, the answers can't come soon enough.
"We're really starting to run out of time with some of these decisions," Piniella said.
One additional possibility for the Rays could be veteran outfielder Bobby Higginson, who may get released by the Tigers.
GAME DETAILS: Carl Crawford made a diving catch in centerfield and Aubrey Huff made a running catch in left. ... Backup catcher candidate Kevin Cash, who had been 1-for-16 in his first 11 games, had three hits, including two doubles, but killed a ninth-inning rally by grounding into a double play. ... Chris Singleton, who has been a front-runner for a backup outfield spot, started for a second straight day and went 0-for-3.
ROAD WARRIORS: The Rays tonight open what amounts to their last homestand of the spring.
After playing at Progress Energy Park tonight, Friday and Saturday, they have to move out to make room for the St. Petersburg Grand Prix.
The timing of the race forces the Rays to spend the critical last week of the exhibition season on the road. They'll be riding buses all over the state, with games Sunday in Winter Haven, Monday in Bradenton, Tuesday night in Clearwater, Wednesday in Fort Myers, Thursday night in Tampa and Friday in Viera. They wrap up exhibition play with an April 2 game at Tropicana Field.
As a result, Piniella plans to split the team into squads to break up the travel, preventing him from starting the regulars together as he normally would during the final spring games.
"I can understand the week on the road because of the Grand Prix races, but, boy, I'll tell you, playing a night game in Clearwater followed by a day game in Fort Myers, then playing a night game in Tampa followed by a day game in Viera at the end of spring training, that's kind of rough," Piniella said.
"We'll break up the team as well as we can and make it as painless as we can. I'm not concerned about fatigue, but I am concerned about stiff backs (from riding the buses). Also, if you are a little tired you are more prone to have an injury."
MISCELLANY: The Rays plan to cut their roster by five or six today, leaving them with about 31-32 players. They have to be down to 25 by midnight April 2. ... Ex-Ray Ryan Rupe, who spent last season in Japan, is in camp with the Dodgers and said he is throwing well. ... Tonight's game will be shown by Fox Sports Net, with announcers Dewayne Staats, Joe Magrane and Todd Kalas making their 2005 debuts.