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For their own good
Fifty years ago, they were screwed-up kids sent to the Florida School for Boys to be straightened out. But now they are screwed-up men, scarred by the whippings they endured. Read the story and see a video and portrait gallery.
Observers say Aubrey Huff has shown remarkable discipline to put up his impressive stats despite little help from his teammates.
[Times photo: Michael Rondou]
ST. PETERSBURG - The Devil Rays thought they had a problem when they lost centerfielder Alex Sanchez to a suspension for using a performance-enhancing substance to start the season.
Now they might have a problem with the return of Sanchez from that suspension.
Sanchez returns to the roster today, but that means the Rays have to make another move. The question is, who is out?
"I don't know what we're going to do," manager Lou Piniella said.
Speedster Joey Gathright was called up from Triple-A Durham to replace Sanchez in center and has filled in well, batting .438 with three stolen bases entering Wednesday's game.
"He has done well," Piniella said. "He has gotten on base. He has given us some speed ... but we haven't been totally pleased with his play in centerfield."
Gathright misplayed what should have been a Sammy Sosa single into a triple Tuesday. Sosa eventually scored on a short fly to center when Gathright's throw was well over the head of catcher Toby Hall . Later, Gathright had another throw to second sail high.
Before Wednesday's game, Gathright worked with coach Billy Hatcher on his throwing. Because of his problems on defense, Gathright could be the odd man out. Another option is sending veteran Chris Singleton to Durham.
A third option is sending out a pitcher and keeping an extra position player. Piniella said that option has been discussed but is unlikely.
Meantime, Gathright is hoping he has done enough in his short stint to stick around.
"Last year, I was just here, maybe I was too excited just to be here," Gathright said. "Now, I think I've played better. Now, I know what I can do and I just have to show them what I can do. I think I have. Hopefully, I have showed them what I can do, and I just hope to keep getting better."
UP IN THE AIR: Though Sanchez returns today, Piniella isn't sure he will start.
"We'll see who we send out first before we even get into whether he will play or not," Piniella said.
FINDING HIS GROOVE: Seth McClung 's season debut April 4 was a wreck. He allowed five runs on four hits with two walks. Six of the seven batters he faced reached base, and he got his second big-league loss.
Not what he hoped for after missing nearly two years in the big leagues following Tommy John surgery. But in the two appearances since, McClung has allowed no runs and one hit in three innings.
"I didn't reinvent the wheel or anything," he said. "I just made a little adjustment and started pitching the way I can."
McClung dismissed his season debut as just a rough game that is bound to happen to every pitcher. It had nothing to do with pitching in the majors for the first time since May 2003.
"I pitched my rear off in the first place to get back to here," McClung said. "A lot of people had me written off already. So I've been pitching with my back to the wall the whole time. It was just one of those games."
CATCHING UP: Catcher Charles Johnson , back from personal leave, is expected to get his first start tonight. He made his Rays debut Wednesday after Singleton pinch-hit for Toby Hall in the seventh inning.
"We got to get him in the lineup," Piniella said. "He hasn't played in a while and we can't wait much longer. Let's hope he swings the bat a little bit for us."
Catcher Kevin Cash (shoulder tendinitis) is expected to be assigned to Durham.
MINOR MATTERS: Right-hander Jeff Niemann had his first start for Class A Visalia pushed back for a second time to Saturday. The Rays' top 2004 draft pick has been bothered by a sore right thigh. ... Shortstop B.J. Upton was 2-for-4 for Triple-A Durham and is hitting .179 (5-for-28). ... Northeast High's Doug Waechter earned the win in the 12-4 victory over Columbus, allowing four runs on eight hits (none of them homers) and three walks in seven innings and striking out 11. ... Outfielder Delmon Young is batting .321 (9-for-28) for Double-A Montgomery, which is 7-0.
MISCELLANY: The Rays have lost five straight to the Orioles at the Trop and 10 of 14 overall since June 6. ... Rightfielde r Aubrey Huff played with a painful tooth he said likely will be removed today. ... Second baseman Jorge Cantu has an eight-game hitting streak, a career high and tied for third-longest on the team to start a season ( Rocco Baldelli , 13 in 2003). ... Cantu has seven RBIs, which Rays second basemen did not reach last season until June 11 (58 games). ... Banner in rightfield seats: "Sosa, Cork that Syringe." ... Kelly Franks , who plays team mascot Raymond , had surgery to repair the radius bone in her right arm broken in a Tuesday fall. Team physician Koco Eaton performed the procedure that put a plate and four screws on the bone. Franks is expected back in six to eight weeks.