By ROGER MILLS and MARC TOPKIN
© St. Petersburg Times, published February 23, 2001
ST. PETERSBURG -- The competition for playing time in the Rays' crowded outfield is expected to be one of the intriguing story lines of spring training.
As the full contingent of players took the field Thursday morning at the Ray Naimoli Complex, veteran leftfielder Greg Vaughn added something extra to the mix.
Vaughn, who led the Rays with 28 home runs despite missing 35 games last season with hamstring and shoulder problems, said he plans to play in the outfield every game.
Last year a sore right shoulder forced Vaughn to be the designated hitter for 37 of 44 games after the departure of Jose Canseco. In that time, he was 26-for-152 (.171).
"I expect to play 162 games in leftfield," said Vaughn, who also was on the disabled list June 17-July 6 with a strained hamstring. "I don't like DH-ing. I had to do it last year because of the hamstring and the shoulders. I'm too far from home to get that type of rest. I love playing. I work my butt off on defense and I want to be out there battling every single day.
"If they want me to DH, they're going to have another problem."
Vaughn said both his shoulder and hamstring feel fine and he will be ready for opening day on April 3.
"The only day you're 100 percent is the first day," Vaughn said. "But I tell a lot of guys you play banged up, tape it up and get out there. Starting tomorrow, everyone's going to be sore. You get paid to play. You have to love to play and I love to play."
If Vaughn is not in the DH rotation, the competition for the remaining spots will be even more intense. With Gerald Williams in centerfield, the Rays have Ben Grieve, Jose Guillen and phenom Josh Hamilton competing for time in rigthfield.
"Yeah, there's going to be some decisions to be made but I hope they'll become easy decisions," manager Larry Rothschild said. "If different guys are able to do what we need them to do, then it becomes who's going to be the extra outfielder, really."
MR. MCGRIFF IS HERE: Veteran first baseman Fred McGriff reported, took his physical and promptly began smacking deep drives over the wall and perilously close to vehicles parked behind the main hitting field, cars belonging to owner Vince Naimoli and general manager Chuck LaMar.
The usually reserved McGriff seemed upbeat, joked with reporters and hinted at his goals for the new season.
"To stay healthy," said McGriff, who has 417 career homers. "Health is the bottom line. I totally believe that if I can stay healthy I have a chance to have a good year. My main goal is always to prepare myself to stay healthy. Then, hit some home runs, drive in some runs."
And how many homers would that be?
"At least 30," McGriff said. "I think that's a good number to start off with. A safe number."
RAYS BITS: With Mike Metcalfe's release, the Rays have 68 players in camp (32 pitchers and 36 position players). ... Catcher John Flaherty banged a pitch off his left shin during batting practice and has a sizable bruise. Flaherty said the injury is minor. ... Right-handed pitcher Jesus Colome, acquired July 28 from Oakland in the Jim Mecir trade, did not take part in a scheduled batting practice session, but did throw earlier in the day.
The full-squad workout starts at 10 a.m. at the Ray Naimoli training complex and should last until about 1 p.m.