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Assistant GM gone, but love remains
By MARC TOPKIN
Published April 2, 2006
The Devil Rays open the season Monday and, as usual, Scott Proefrock will be there watching.
But after 10 years and eight seasons as a Rays assistant general manager, Proefrock will be on the other side, working for the Orioles.
Fired along with boss Chuck LaMar and Cam Bonifay when the Stuart Sternberg ownership group took over in October, Proefrock was hired within two weeks by the Orioles, who made him assistant GM/director, baseball administration.
Proefrock admits he still has an affection for many of the Rays, and will have some conflicted feelings given most of the key players in Tampa Bay uniforms were provided by the old regime.
"It will be a little bit - I'm trying to find the right word to describe the emotion for that - it will be strange. I guess that's the best word," Proefrock said. "There's a lot of blood, sweat and tears, a lot of hard work by a lot of good baseball people - some still there, some not - that went into putting that team together, and through a lot of trials and tribulations that nobody needs to rehash.
"I'm proud of what we did there under the circumstances. And I'm sure with the success those players will have down the road I'll continue to be proud of them."
Proefrock has strong feelings about how the previous administration is being portrayed publicly.
"I would say that we're being painted with a broad brush that everything we did was horrible and negative, and that certainly was not my opinion," Proefrock said, noting how the Rays' group of young position players is considered among baseball's best.
He specifically is annoyed that the old regime is being blamed for the decision not to call up prospects B.J. Upton and Delmon Young last season when the call actually was made at the ownership level.
Official word was that neither player was ready from a baseball standpoint, though there was considerable speculation the decision was financial - to keep them from accruing service time that would accelerate their eligibility for arbitration and free agency.
"We made mistakes and we're certainly willing to take responsibility for those mistakes, but don't blame that regime for things they were not responsible for," Proefrock said. "That's what is very irritating. I certainly understand they are trying to start fresh. But to mischaracterize things - I suppose it's the nature of the business; everyone's in spin mode - but I think it's a little disingenuous."
Plus, Proefrock said, it would have been to Upton's and Young's benefit.
"In no way could it have hurt them; it could only have helped them," Proefrock said. "For once the Devil Rays were playing important games in September, competing with playoff caliber clubs. If you didn't think that exposing those players to that environment, the positive environment created by Lou Piniella and his staff, would be a beneficial thing for young players, then I don't know what the benefit of a September callup is."
Though Proefrock landed well, LaMar (who is being paid through this season) has not gotten another job and Bonifay (also under contract) did some spring training scouting for the Mariners.
RAYS RUMBLINGS: Sports Illustrated ranks the Rays 24th overall of the 30 teams and includes manager Joe Maddon (the Maverick) and Young (the Kid in a Hurry) among its 20 People to Watch. ... Among Maddon's youthful exploits, as a junior he pitched a no-hitter to lead Hazleton (Pa.) High past Marian High for the 1973 McGeehan League championship.
According to the Standard Speaker, Maddon lost only once in four years as a Little League pitcher. ... Interesting - and, um, unique - version of Monday's brawl on the Red Sox Web site: Boston pitcher Julian Tavarez "inadvertently stepped" on outfielder Joey Gathright's arm and Tavarez was "irked" because Gathright "seemed to have an issue" with how aggressively Tavarez covered the plate. ... Renovation of the suites at Tropicana Field likely will be delayed into the season. ... Today's New York Times business section has a lengthy story on Sternberg's takeover headlined Case Study: Fix a baseball team. ... Also on the other side of the Rays-Orioles series is Lee Elia, who went from Tampa Bay hitting coach to Baltimore bench coach. ... Ex-Ray Dewon Brazelton turned into a spring success story by winning the No. 4 spot in the Padres rotation, ahead of Woody Williams and Chan Ho Park. "I'm full of emotions. ... I don't know whether to laugh or cry," he said. ... Sternberg, and some of his partners, are expected at Monday's opener. ... Ex-Ray Matt Diaz won a reserve outfield spot with the Braves.
MISCELLANY: If there are not going to be any suspensions handed out or asterisks added, what exactly is the point of the much-touted steroids investigation?
... The Rays will find the Orioles in disarray, given Miguel Tejada's trade request flip-flopping, Melvin Mora's contract mess, Javy Lopez's inability to play first, a lineup that doesn't fit together and a bullpen that is a major question. ... What, truly, could be next after the Cubs stooped to selling the naming rights to Wrigley Field bleachers? ... New Reds pitcher Bronson Arroyo said facing his former Boston teammates was "like pitching against your next-door neighbor" in Little League." ... With a $17-million salary, Todd Helton represents around 40 percent of the Rockies' approximate $45-million payroll.
Information from other news organizations was used in this report.