By MARC TOPKIN
© St. Petersburg Times, published April 7, 2001
BOSTON -- Centerfielder Gerald Williams was benched for Friday's game, and possibly more, for disciplinary reasons.
Neither manager Larry Rothschild nor Williams would say what happened, but the action is believed to stem from an incident in the ninth inning of Thursday's 11-0 loss to Toronto when Williams objected to Rothschild's decision to pinch hit for him so Russ Johnson could get his first at-bat of the season.
Friday, all Rothschild would say is that Williams wasn't playing.
"I made the decision and I'm not going to spend a great amount of time talking about it," Rothschild said. "I think it's in the best interests of this team that he's not playing."
Rothschild intimated the benching could last more than one day: "I'll continue to think about it and decide how I want to approach it."
Asked if the action was for disciplinary reasons, Rothschild said, "I guess in some fashion it is, but I'm not going to go into any discussion about it."
Williams was pleasant, but would not address the incident or the disciplinary action: "That's the decision rendered by the manager and I have to abide by it." Approached again later, Williams said, "I support his decision."
Randy Winn batted leadoff and played center in Williams' place and went 1-for-3.
JUDD DELIVERS: After a couple of rough spring outings, reliever Mike Judd did a good job in a tough situation, allowing two hits and one earned run in 31/3 innings. "Everything was just sharper," Rothschild said.
Judd, acquired from Los Angeles March 28, said he was happy to contribute. "I hadn't done anything to be a part of this team. I was feeling kind of blah for a little while. But I'm here for a reason."
SEE YA: Outfielder Alex Sanchez was claimed off waivers by Milwaukee. Sanchez, a fifth-round pick in the inaugural 1996 draft, was designated for assignment last week to make room on the 40-man roster for pitcher Ariel Prieto. In 566 games over five minor-league seasons, the Cuban defector hit .291 with 107 extra-base hits and 280 stolen bases. The Rays receive the standard $20,000 claiming fee for Sanchez.
THE GRAND TOUR?: Managing general partner Vince Naimoli skipped the game to attend the opening of Miller Park in Milwaukee and, no doubt, to hob-nob with commissioner Bud Selig. Naimoli is also scheduled to take in the opening of PNC Park Monday in Pittsburgh.
MINOR MATTERS: Bill Evers won Thursday as Triple-A Durham beat Richmond 1-0 on an eighth-inning homer by Andy Sheets. ... Top prospect Josh Hamilton was 1-for-5 in his debut for Double-A Orlando. ... Buddy Biancalana lost in his managerial debut as Charleston was beaten by Delmarva 9-4.
RAYS BITS: With no problems with his left knee in a Thursday workout or the morning after, Albie Lopez is clear to start as scheduled Sunday. ... Juan Guzman, rehabilitating from shoulder surgery, will have his next outing pushed back a few days to give him additional time to build arm strength. ... Greg Vaughn has hits in each of the four games. ... The Rays were 2-2 after four games in each of their first three seasons.