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Rothschild wants a team with teeth

By MARC TOPKIN

© St. Petersburg Times, published April 11, 2001


TORONTO -- There's plenty the Rays have been lacking during their seven-game losing streak. But this is something else, something that goes beyond the need for better pitching or a clutch hit.

"I think we need to have an edge," manager Larry Rothschild said. "It shows up in the fifth, sixth, seventh innings. We've got to develop some teeth."

That type of intangible is hard to define, but Rothschild said it is the kind of thing you know when you see. "It shows up at crunch time during games," he said. "You just find a way to get things done. All it takes is a few guys to get it going."

With the team off to its worst start, there is always concern about the players accepting losing. "If losing becomes a habit," Rothschild said, "we better break it quick."

RYAN TRYING AGAIN: Ryan Rupe, looking to make amends tonight for a poor first start, made a few mechanical adjustments in hope of regaining control of his fastball -- and his confidence.

Rupe, who had a rough spring, said after Friday's game that he felt like he was pitching without his changeup.

Rothschild said if Rupe can get back to throwing his hard, sinking fastball effectively, the changeup will fall into place.

And if all that happens, the Rays hope Rupe regains the confidence he showed in 1999, his rookie season. "Once he feels like he's throwing the ball the way he can, I think the confidence will come because he'll get some outs and it will build," Rothschild said.

TAKE THAT: Jays reliever Paul Quantrill didn't exactly deny that he threw behind Steve Cox in Monday's game to retaliate for Tampa Bay's Rusty Meacham hitting Carlos Delgado.

"Obviously, the ball was slippery, and I got the same slippery ball that Meacham had when he hit Delgado," Quantrill said.

THIRD AT SECOND: With Russ Johnson taking over at second base and Damian Rolls the sole middle infield reserve, the Rays are preparing for all contingencies. Tuesday afternoon, outfielder Randy Winn, who spent more time in the infield than outfield while playing at Santa Clara University, took ground balls at second. "I'm the extreme emergency-emergency guy, I guess," Winn said.

"Possibly," Rothschild said.

PITCHING IN: Travis Harper is scheduled to start Friday's game at Baltimore, but that could change. With a day off Thursday, Rothschild is considering skipping the 24-year-old rookie and using top starter Albie Lopez on what would be his normal day to pitch. Rothschild wants to see how Lopez, bothered by a slight left knee injury, performs in a workout today.

RAYS BITS: Fred McGriff moved into 28th place on the all-time list with his 418th home run. ... The Rays' 20-inning scoreless streak, from the fourth inning Saturday to the sixth Monday, was three innings shy of the team record. . . . Juan Guzman's comeback is on hold due to shoulder stiffness that has limited him to long-toss sessions. . . . Bobby Seay had a rough first start for Double-A Orlando, giving up four runs on seven hits and two walks in three innings.

* * *

Today's game:

WHERE: SkyDome.

fRADIO: WFLA-AM 970, WLCC-AM 760 (Spanish).

f,2001 GAMES IN TORONTO:

Monday 8-1L

Tuesday 3-2 (10)L

Tonight 7:05

June 5 7:05 p.m.

June 6 7:05 p.m.

June 7 12:35 p.m.

Sept. 21 7:05 p.m.

Sept. 22 TBA

Sept. 23 1:05 p.m.

The pitchers

Ryan Rupe

He had a rough spring (1-1, 6.27 ERA) followed by a rougher first outing, giving up eight runs on eight hits and two walks in 32/3 innings in Boston on Friday. His troubles start with a lack of command of his fastball.

Esteban Loaiza

He is off to a surprisingly strong start as the ace, going 2-0 with 15 strikeouts in 16 innings. He hasn't been nearly as effective against the Rays, going 1-2 with a 7.09 ERA in six games.

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