tampabay.com

D'backs' Gonzalez hasn't ruled out a hometown return

By DAMIAN CRISTODERO
Published June 25, 2006


ST. PETERSBURG - He didn't really endorse it, but he didn't rule it out, either.

Asked if he would be open to playing for the Devil Rays next season if the Diamondbacks did not pick up his $10-million option, Tampa native Luis Gonzalez said, "I'd think about it.

"You always dream about playing for your hometown team."

The Rays would have much to offer the leftfielder, who was in town last week for Arizona's three-game series at the Trop.

The team plays in the American League, which offers older players (he will be 39 on Sept. 3) roles as designated hitters. And Gonzalez said he knows Wade Boggs and Fred McGriff, two other Tampa natives, had good experiences playing for the Rays.

Gonzalez said he needed 80 to 100 tickets for family and friends for each game against Tampa Bay.

He also would command a lot less money than what he is owed by the D'backs, and he still has a fairly steady bat. Gonzalez, in his 16th season, entered Saturday batting .264 with five home runs and 31 RBIs.

Though he hasn't hit a home run since April 20, it is too early to tell if that is part of Arizona's overall malaise or a real diminution of skills. Gonzalez said he could still finish strong.

He said he wants to stay with the Diamondbacks, but "you weigh your options. Obviously, you don't close the door on any opportunities."

Besides, he said, "I've always taken an interest in (the Rays) because it is in my hometown. They have a great bunch of young players who are really starting to develop on their own. If you keep that core together for a couple of years, it's going to be Crawford, Baldelli and all those guys. They run the ball down out there."

KNUCKLING UNDER:

Tommy John, at the Trop on Saturday for Turn Back the Clock Night, said he regrets not learning a knuckleball when he had the chance.

It was 1974, and the left-hander was about to have elbow surgery that would save his career and eventually bear his name. John said he called his friend, Hall of Fame pitcher Hoyt Wilhelm, who lived in Sarasota before he died in 2002.

John said he told Wilhelm if the surgery failed to restore his arm strength, he wanted to learn a knuckleball to help him stay in the game. The surgery was a success, and John, who pitched through 1989, never learned the pitch.

"I wish I would have gone down there," John said. "Had I picked up that knuckleball, I still might be pitching. I can throw as hard as (Boston's Tim) Wakefield, and I'm 63. Plus, I'm left-handed."

MANAGING EMOTIONS:

A dustup last week between White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen and Astros manager Phil Garner was apparently settled by a phone call.

Guillen, according to published reports in Chicago, criticized Garner for not shaking his hand before Game 3 of the World Series in Houston. Garner said Guillen was wrong and took exception to Guillen saying Garner treated him like a "crazy Venezuelan." He called to set the record straight.

"It sounds to me like he's got other issues," Garner told the Houston Chronicle. "I don't know if it's paranoia or what. I treat people with a great deal of respect. It doesn't matter what country or origin they're from.

"That's why I called him. It sounds to me like he has some issues. Maybe he can get help with that."

Guillen, who told the Chicago Tribune he was joking about the "crazy Venezuelan" stuff, didn't recall the handshake incident and only was upset in Houston about the closing of the stadium roof.

"Everything is fine," he told the paper. "He told me I need help. I already got help. The commissioner told me to get help. When I have something against a manager, you'll know it."

A NON-APOLOGY APOLOGY:

After Guillen met with Sox chairman Jerry Reinsdorf to discuss calling Sun-Times columnist Jay Mariotti a derogatory term for homosexuals, he told Chicago reporters, "Jerry doesn't like Jay either. Nobody likes the man here. I don't care what he thinks about me.

"Jerry talked to me and said I should think about the word I used. But he is a piece of garbage. He always has been garbage and always will be."

ODDS AND ENDS:

The NBA's Mavericks stole about 10,000 fans a night from the Rangers. The Dallas Morning News reported that on days both teams played at home, the Rangers averaged 18,889. When the Mavs were off or out of town, the Rangers drew an average 28,708. ... The White Sox last season won a World Series with 741 regular-season runs, ninth in the AL. Chicago entered Saturday with a league-high 423 and are on pace to score 939. ... When the Tigers beat the Cubs 12-3 on June 18, it was, according to baseball historian David Vincent, only the second time a game had at least 15 runs all driven in by homers.