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Castilla simmers after benching

By MARC TOPKIN

© St. Petersburg Times, published April 15, 2001


BALTIMORE -- After a day of reflection, Vinny Castilla was no more understanding of the Rays' decision to bench him in favor of Aubrey Huff and was feeling more like he was made the fall guy for their poor start.

"That's what it pretty much looks like to me, that I'm the scapegoat for this situation. They decided to make a move, and the only move they made was me," Castilla said.

"It's not like I'm the only one who was struggling. There are a lot of people hitting .200. It's very frustrating."

Team officials said Castilla was not being singled out but that they felt it was time for a change.

Still upset by the move, Castilla on Saturday repeated his request for the Rays to move him.

"The best-case scenario for me is to let me go and find somebody that wants me," Castilla said. "I come to the ballpark and I know they don't want me here. It's not a good feeling. It's like when you go to stay at somebody's house and they don't want you there."

But general manager Chuck LaMar said the Rays are not in any hurry to move Castilla.

Huff, a promising left-handed hitter, will get the chance to show he is ready to play every day. The decision to start him Saturday against left-hander Chuck McElroy made that clear, and his fourth-inning home run was impressive.

"He came up here to play and he's going to play," manager Larry Rothschild said.

But the Rays will take some time, be it a week or two or four, to decide if Huff, who is more advanced offensively than defensively, is truly ready.

If so, then they can look into moving Castilla, though it would seem harder to make a trade with him on the bench than in the lineup. The other option would be to release him and eat his $7-million salary.

If Huff isn't ready, the Rays say they would turn back to Castilla, which might be a touchy situation given his bruised feelings.

"It's hard to play for people who don't want you," Castilla said.

Agent Joe Sroba said Castilla will handle the developments in a classy and professional manner, but they are hoping a decision is made quickly.

"This is a story that is going to have to come to an end in the near future," Sroba said.

REHAB REPORT: Juan Guzman is still limited to long-toss sessions but is expected back on the mound this week. Wilson Alvarez threw five innings in an extended spring game Thursday but there are no plans yet to accelerate his progress.

MINOR MATTERS: Jason Standridge threw five scoreless innings for the second time and picked up his first Triple-A victory Friday, 5-1 against Toledo. Toby Hall hit a grand slam. ... In his second Durham outing, Matt White struck out four, walked four and hit a batter while allowing two runs (one earned) in four innings. ... Rocco Baldelli has a seven-game hitting streak and .355 average for Class A Charleston.

RAYS BITS: Rays pitchers had a team record 18-inning scoreless streak until the O's scored in the fourth. ... Russ Johnson has hits in each of his five starts at second base. ... Friday's game was the fourth in team history in which both pitchers threw complete games. The Rays are 3-1. ... Boston ace Pedro Martinez is scheduled to pitch Thursday at the Trop.

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