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Rays/MLB

Gimme five

By JOHN ROMANO
Published April 2, 2006


Five topics suitable for inane debate on talk radio:

WE ALL HAVE OUR DREAMS: The Devil Rays won at a .534 clip during the final 73 games of 2005, and new owner Stuart Sternberg is hopeful they can duplicate that over 162 games. I had a 32-inch waist in 1990 and I'm hopeful I can duplicate that this summer. I don't have much hope for either of us.

TWENTY-THREE SECONDS TO BE OPTIMISTIC: In Carl Crawford, Rocco Baldelli, Delmon Young, B.J. Upton, Jorge Cantu and Jonny Gomes, the Rays potentially have six spots in the lineup filled for 2007 with low-salaried players. If Elijah Dukes and Wes Bankston progress, that means two more potential hitters or trade possibilities. All that is missing is pitching. Between now and next April, or April 2008, the Rays have to get their hands on more arms. Maybe one in a trade (so long, Aubrey Huff and Julio Lugo), one or two out of the minors and one big-ticket free agent. It could work.

AND MAYBE JUAN GUZMAN COULD WEAR A SLING: The promotions department was thinking about a Turn Back the Clock Night but wasn't sure if the former owner and general manager would be available to come back and yell at people.

TELL YOUR STATISTICS TO SHUT UP: If you're hoping the loss of Danys Baez does not have a major impact, you may want to skip the next sentence or two. Baez converted 42 of his last 51 save opportunities for the Rays. Potential replacements Shawn Camp, Jesus Colome, Chad Harville, Dan Miceli and Chad Orvella have converted 13 of 51 save opportunities since 2000.

A ROYAL FLUSH: The Rays spent millions upgrading the facilities around Tropicana Field in the off-season, including a thorough cleaning of the restrooms. They're also spending millions in deferred salary for Greg Vaughn, although, somehow, that stench is harder to wash away.

A LIST OF FIVE

Five changes under the new regime:

5. Beer no longer available in kid's meals.

4. Plastic? Still being recycled. Thirty-eight-year-old pitchers? Not so much.

3. Raymond no longer wears Wilson Alvarez's old uniforms.

2. As far as we know, Sternberg has never advocated squirrel-icide.

1. Scouts get bonuses instead of merit badges.

FIVE SIGNS THE RAYS ARE GETTING TO MADDON

IN MAY: Those long bicycle rides he enjoys so much? He's now taking them in the fourth inning.

IN JUNE: Whenever he is asked about ownership's commitment to the Rays, Maddon refers the question to "my dear and trusted friend" Lou Piniella.

IN JULY: As the trade deadline nears, he keeps talking about himself and Aubrey Huff as a "package deal."

IN AUGUST: Stops harping about on-base percentage. Instead, he is often heard muttering about why the bars in Pinellas County always close at 2 a.m.

IN SEPTEMBER: Although managers are not subject to MLB's drug-testing program, Maddon announces he has tested positive for steroids, human growth hormones, greenies and Valium. He demands to be suspended.

FIVE THINGS TO KEEP AN EYE ON

1. July 31 on your calendar. By then, we'll know whether Huff has been impressive enough to be dealt for a pitching prospect.

2. The box scores in Montgomery. If Chuck Tiffany is the real deal in Double A this summer, the Rays rotation for 2008 is suddenly much brighter.

3. The box scores in Montgomery, Part II. It'd be nice to see Jeff Niemann and Wade Townsend moving through Double A sometime this summer.

4. The giant, flashing E in Durham. The Rays say they are committed to B.J. Upton at shortstop, but he really needs to prove he can play the position. The errors have to be cut down from 53 to somewhere around 30.

5. The upper deck. If ballpark improvements, young players and renewed optimism do not put bodies in the seats, there will be ugly days ahead.

FINAL FIVE WORDS

Battle cry: Better than Baltimore!

[Last modified April 2, 2006, 01:24:20]


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