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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.
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The best way to describe catcher Raul Casanova's career is a long journey.
By MARC TOPKIN
Published June 10, 2007
The best way to describe catcher Raul Casanova's career is a long journey. Because Casanova, typical of a veteran backup, moves around a lot and doesn't stay in one place too long. Since starting his pro career in 1990 (when Delmon Young was 4), Casanova has been with been with nine organizations, including Colorado and Baltimore twice each, in 17 years. "It's persevering, " said Casanova, 34. "I know I have the ability to play this game and play at this level. I have to be patient and believe in myself. That's the key. You have to give yourself a chance and take advantage of those chances."
He has played for 25 teams: Tigers, Brewers, Orioles, White Sox and Rays in the majors, 20 minor-league squads at different levels (plus winter ball in his native Puerto Rico).
He was drafted once, traded three times and let go more times than he wants to remember. His longest stretch of stability was four years in the Tigers organization. Twice he has been signed and released during spring training.
"If someone gives you a chance to go to major-league spring training, you go and try and see what happens, " he said. "You have to take advantage of the situation."
He has been on an opening-day roster three times ('98 with Detroit, 2001-02 with the Brewers) but has played more than 100 games in the majors only once ('97 with Detroit). He has spent only one season exclusively in the majors ('01 with Milwaukee) but was sidelined in August with a knee problem that needed surgery.
He has been sidelined with back, elbow, abdominal, wrist and hamstring injuries. Tuesday was his first big-league game since September 2005, and he hit his first homer since May 12, 2002.
Friday was bad, as the Rays had a six-run lead (8-2) in the fifth and lost. But it wasn't as horrid as Tuesday, when they not only blew their largest ninth-inning lead ever (five runs) but lost a game after losing a seven-or-more-run lead for the third time in their history.
- May 7, 1999, at Cleveland: They led 10-2 in the sixth and 11-6 in the seventh then gave up 14 unanswered runs and lost 20-11, with the motley relief crew of Rick White, Scott Aldred, Jim Mecir and Eddie Galliard doing most of the dirty work.
- June 21, 2005, at New York: They led 10-2 in the fifth and 11-7 in the eighth then allowed the Yankees 13 runs in the bottom of the inning and lost 20-11 again, with reliever Travis Harper allowing four home runs in a seven-batter span.
- June 5, 2007, at Toronto: They led 8-1 in the fourth and 11-6 in the ninth then lost 12-11 as four relievers combined to allow six runs (and get only one of 10 batters out) in the ninth, with Tim Corcoran walking in the winning run.
Andy Sonnanstine showed up with great minor-league numbers and delivered an impressive performance in his big-league debut. But he stretched the Rays equipment staff to unusual lengths, with an 11-letter last name that matches the longest the Rays have had among all uniformed personnel. (The longest in major-league history is 14-letter carrier Jarrod Saltalamacchia, the Braves catcher.)