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Williams benched for another day

By MARC TOPKIN

© St. Petersburg Times, published April 8, 2001


BOSTON -- Centerfielder Gerald Williams was on the bench again Saturday and could stay there awhile.

"Until I feel there is resolution it will stay the same," manager Larry Rothschild said.

Williams was first benched Friday for disciplinary reasons. The action stemmed from an incident in the ninth inning of Thursday's 11-0 loss to Toronto, when Williams objected, apparently vociferously, to Rothschild's decision to pinch hit for him, allowing Russ Johnson to get his first at-bat of the season.

Rothschild wouldn't say what it would take to resolve the situation and put Williams, the team's most valuable player last season, back in the lineup.

"That will be between me and him," Rothschild said, "but obviously it would start with a conversation."

Rothschild informed Williams he wants to meet and discuss the incident, but as of pregame batting practice Williams had not responded.

Rothschild wouldn't say how long he would wait: "We will meet at some point I would expect." Williams was approachable but somewhat condescending to reporters, stubbornly refusing to say anything that clarified the situation. He was asked five questions about the matter and to each one he said only, "I support the manager's decision."

Randy Winn started again in Williams' place.

ALBIE VS. PEDRO: Adrenaline is likely to be flowing for most of the Rays in today's matchup with Boston ace Pedro Martinez, but not starting pitcher Albie Lopez. "What am I going to do? I've got to go out and pitch my game. I can't worry what he's doing," Lopez said.

Of more concern to Lopez is the status of his left knee, which he sprained slightly in Tuesday's season-opening win. Lopez said he occasionally gets "a little jolt" and has been feeling more discomfort in the cold weather -- it was 42 degrees at game time -- than he did at home, so he isn't sure how it will hold up today.

Lopez, a free agent at the end of the season, also is uncertain about his future with the Rays.

"I don't know if I'll be here in July (at the trade deadline)," Lopez said. "If I do good, I don't know if they'll want to take the risk of leaving me here and letting me walk after the season. I gave them the opportunity and the option to sign me to a multiyear deal and they wanted nothing to do with it. I'd love to stay in Tampa. ... Hopefully they do take care of it long-term."

MORE PEDRO: Martinez's last regular-season start against Tampa Bay led to ugly brawls and eight suspensions after he hit Williams to start the game. But Martinez had an uneventful spring training outing against the Rays and they say they are not expecting further fireworks.

TALENT POOL: The quality of prospects in the farm system continues to impress. Baseball America has elevated the Rays to sixth place, up from 13th, in its annual ranking of organizational talent. The magazine ranks the White Sox first, followed by the Cubs, Reds, Mariners, Braves and Rays.

RAYS BITS: Toby Hall hit two home runs in Triple-A Durham's 6-2 win against Richmond on Friday. ... Clas A Charleston batters struck out 27 times in their first two games. ... This 10-game, 11-day road trip is the team's second-longest of the season.

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