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3Bs nudged up the ladder

By MIKE READLING

© St. Petersburg Times, published April 18, 2001


The impact of Rays third baseman Vinny Castilla hitting the bench Friday in Baltimore was felt, and, in some cases, still is being felt, in clubhouses from North Carolina to California.

When Tampa Bay benched the veteran and promoted Aubrey Huff from Triple-A Durham, it caused a ripple throughout the organization.

Durham filled Huff's spot with Jared Sandberg from Double-A Orlando. The O-Rays then turned to Class A Bakersfield, plucking Andrew Beinbrink from the Blaze's roster, leaving a spot for Nathan Kaup to make the jump from Charleston.

That last move was perhaps the most curious, since Kaup is a first baseman and was added to a team that already features two first basemen out of its five infielders.

One of those is Dan Grummitt, who used the Blaze's first 10 games to make a strong case for being back in an Orlando uniform.

Grummitt, who worked out with Orlando throughout spring training only to be demoted with two days left, was sixth in the California League with a .389 average through Monday. He had three home runs and five doubles with eight RBI and had hit safely in Bakersfield's first seven games.

NO HELP NEEDED: It doesn't appear as though Orlando needs Grummitt's hot bat at the moment. Outfielder Carl Crawford went 3-for-4, including a home run, double and two RBI Monday night to improve his team-leading average to .375, fourth in the Southern League. Crawford also was leading the league in stolen bases (seven) and hits (18).

The O-Rays' top four starters -- Joe Kennedy, Delvin James, Jim Magrane and Ronni Severino -- had combined for a 1.28 ERA, allowing seven runs in 491/3 innings through Monday. Relievers Juan Rosario and Jason Jiminez had not allowed a run in 181/3 innings, and Talley Haines led the league with five saves.

HELP NEEDED: On the other hand, outfielder Josh Hamilton, the organization's top prospect, was last on the team with a .106 average through Monday and had 15 strikeouts in 12 games, tying him for sixth in the league.

ROCKIN' IN DURHAM: The Bulls continue to look like odds-on favorites to defend their three consecutive Southern Division titles.

Durham homered in its first seven games, extending a streak that started with the final game of last season, and homered in eight of its first nine games. Through Monday, the Bulls had 14, including an International League-leading five from Chris Hatcher, playing in his first season at Triple A.

Catcher Toby Hall connected for the organization's first grand slam of the season Friday night against Toledo and owns a team-best 11 RBI.

The Bulls pitchers have been holding up their end as well, leading the league with a 1.75 ERA. Scranton-Wilkes Barre ranks second at 2.56.

Jason Standridge pitched five shutout innings Thursday against Toledo, striking out three and walking three en route to his first career Triple-A win. He has not allowed a run through 10 innings.

ROCCO IN CHARLESTON: Centerfielder Rocco Baldelli, the Rays' 2000 first-round draft pick (No. 6 overall), is leading the RiverDogs with a .355 average and has a seven-game hitting streak but has not played since slightly injuring his knee in an outfield collision Friday night. Baldelli is expected back in the lineup before the end of the week.

RUNNING AWAY WITH IT: Charleston second baseman Irwin Centeno led the team with 12 stolen bases through Monday.

OUT OF HERE: Former Durham outfielder Alex Sanchez, designated for assignment March 29, was picked up by the Indianapolis Indians, the Triple-A affiliate of the Milwaukee Brewers.

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