By MARC TOPKIN and MIKE READLING
© St. Petersburg Times, published April 5, 2001
ST. PETERSBURG -- The Rays had made the baseball decision that outfielder Kenny Kelly wasn't likely to have an impact on their major-league club. Wednesday, they made a business decision, trading Kelly and the $1.2-million remaining on his contract to Seattle for about $350,000.
Kelly, the former Tampa Catholic and University of Miami football star, will join Seattle's Double-A team in San Antonio, Texas.
"It was a pleasure to have Kenny Kelly in our organization. He's a class kid who's gone through a lot," general manager Chuck LaMar said. "In our baseball opinion right now, we think he'll play in the major leagues, but as an extra player. He still is young enough and has enough athleticism to prove us wrong, but our reports indicate he'll be a fourth- or fifth-type outfielder."
Kelly, 22, was the Rays' second-round pick in the 1997 draft. He split his first three seasons between the Rays and Hurricanes, but the Rays thought enough of him last spring to buy him out of football with a four-year major-league contract worth $2.2-million.
Having paid him about $1-million in bonus and salary, the Rays apparently changed their opinion after last season, when Kelly's performance was so-so at Double-A Orlando (a .252 average, three homers and 29 RBI in 124 games), the Rays acquired Jason Tyner and prospects Josh Hamilton and Carl Crawford emerged.
The Rays took Kelly off the 40-man roster last week to make room for pitcher Mike Judd, who was acquired from Los Angeles. That gave them 10 days to trade or release Kelly or put him on waivers.
LaMar saves Kelly's $400,000-a-year salary and collects the extra $350,000. If the Rays hadn't made the trade, they would have had to put Kelly on waivers Wednesday and would have received just the $20,000 claiming fee.
DELGONE-O: Carlos Delgado became the first player to hit three home runs in one game at Tropicana Field and the first to hit three home runs against the Rays in the same game. Wednesday marked his 23rd multihomer game and his third all-time with three home runs. Delgado has 10 career home runs against Tampa Bay.
"It's awesome. It's a great feeling," Delgado said. "You don't try to do it. I think it's impossible to plan to come out and hit three home runs. Sometimes you just get that swing when you're finishing up high and the next thing you know the balls are going out of the park."
MINOR OPENERS: All four of the Rays' minor-league affiliates open their seasons tonight. Triple-A Durham and starting pitcher Mickey Callaway host Richmond, Double-A Orlando hosts Huntsville as Joe Kennedy gets the start and Class A Bakersfield plays its first game as a Tampa Bay affiliate, traveling to Mudville with Neal Frendling on the mound. Charleston and starting pitcher Seth McClung host the Delmarva Orioles.
TOP ROOKIE: Second baseman Brent Abernathy was named the Al Lopez Award winner, given to the top rookie in Tampa Bay's spring camp.
Abernathy hit .351 this spring before being sent to Triple-A Durham.
SPOTTED AT THE TROP: Rays top prospect Josh Hamilton enjoyed his final night off before joining the Orlando Rays by watching his future teammates play the Blue Jays at Tropicana Field. ... ESPN college basketball announcer Dick Vitale was seen sitting next to the third-base dugout.
WHERE: Tropicana Field.
TV/RADIO: Fox Sports Net, WFLA-AM 970, WLCC-AM 760 (Spanish).
TICKETS: (727) 898-RAYS; (813) 282-RAYS.
TODAY'S PROMOTIONS: Seniors can purchase a lower-deck outfield seat, hot dog and drink for $12 or an upper general admission, hot dog and drink for $7. Also: cholesterol and diabetes screening, exhibits on nutrition, exercise and general health.
BRYAN REKAR: Last year Rekar established career bests in wins (7), ERA (4.41), starts (27), innings (173.1), complete games (2) and strikeouts (95).
CHRIS CARPENTER:Carpenter was 10-12 with a 6.27 ERA last season. He is 4-1 with a 1.58 ERA vs. the Rays, striking out 19 in 40 innings.