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Grieve hopes to ease out of slide

By MARC TOPKIN and BRUCE LOWITT

© St. Petersburg Times, published April 18, 2001


ST. PETERSBURG -- Ben Grieve's numbers don't look right -- not with a .128 overall average, a 1-for-31 slump and 16 straight hitless at-bats -- but the Rays don't think there is anything seriously wrong.

The Rays gave Grieve the night off Tuesday, figuring the first step in getting him back to normal is to get him to relax.

"The idea is to get away from it, try to relax, rest your mind a little bit," Grieve said. "I feel all right; it's just a matter of pressing a little too much. When you're hitting .120, you feel like the harder you hit it the more points your average is going to rise. You can't make up for all those lost points with one swing. You've got to relax your way through it rather than fight your way through it."

Grieve, acquired from Oakland in a three-way deal in which the Rays gave up Roberto Hernandez and Cory Lidle, is expected back in the lineup tonight.

"A lot of time when a player gets traded to a team, he wants to make an impression right away and do everything in the first week, 10 days, two weeks, and you get into bad habits because of it and the focus changes and you're putting too much pressure on yourself," manager Larry Rothschild said. "I think getting away from it for a night should help him, and hopefully it does.

"He's going to hit. I think anything you can do to expedite that process will be helpful."

500 CLUB: Today is the 500th game in franchise history, and there seems to be only four members of the Rays family who have seen every game in person: catcher Mike DiFelice, coach Billy Hatcher, assistant trainer Ken Crenshaw and equipment manager Carlos Ledezma.

The five other original Rays -- Wilson Alvarez, John Flaherty, Albie Lopez, Fred McGriff and Esteban Yan -- all were away from the team at some point because of injury or family situations, as were trainer Jamie Reed and radio broadcasters Charlie Slowes and Paul Olden. Rothschild was suspended for three games.

And what does it mean to be a member of the 500 club?

"I hope I get to see 500 more," Hatcher said.

MEDICAL UPDATE: Alvarez keeps throwing, but doesn't seem to be getting any closer to pitching in big-league games. Alvarez, who had June shoulder surgery, threw four innings in a simulated game Tuesday at about 60 percent of his normal velocity. "He was okay, but he still has a ways to go with arm strength and we'll continue to do what we're doing until the velocity comes up," Rothschild said.

NUMBERS GAME: The six unearned runs allowed increased the Rays' 14-game total to 24, putting them on pace to smash the AL season record of 123 by the 1975 Tigers. ... With two more errors, the Rays increased their major-league leading total to 18. ... The Rays have gone 20 innings without a run at Tropicana Field, having been shutout in back-to-back home games for the second time in team history. ... The Rays have gone 24 innings without a run against Boston. ... After 28 hits in their first two games, the Rays are batting .195 through their last 12.

BITS AND PIECES: Reports out of Detroit say the Tigers might be interested if Vinny Castilla is released. ... David Cone, Bret Saberhagen and John Valentin, all recovering from injuries in Fort Myers, visited with their Sox teammates.

Tonight's game: Red Sox at Rays, 7:15 p.m.

WHERE: Tropicana Field.

TV/RADIO: Fox Sports Net; WFLA-AM 970, WLCC-AM 760 (Spanish).

TICKETS: Available in all categories at stadium box office and team stores at WestShore Plaza, Brandon TownCenter and BayWalk with no service charge, and through Ticketmaster outlets and phone centers. Call (727) 898-RAYS or (813) 282-RAYS.

TONIGHT'S PROMOTION: Web site Wednesday Special -- Print a coupon off the team Web site (www.devilrays.com) and redeem at the stadium box office to get a $35 diamond club seat for $20, $23 lower reserved seats for $10 and $14 outfield seats for $7.

The pitchers

PAXTON CRAWFORD: Crawford has pitched well in two starts, allowing a .191 average and striking out 10 in 13 innings. He throws a good heavy fastball and uses a slider and changeup. He beat the Rays on seven strong innings April 7.

ALBIE LOPEZ: Lopez, who ranks third in the league in ERA, is coming off a three-hit shutout of Baltimore on Friday. He pitched well in Boston on April 8 (3 runs, 6 hits, 7 innings) but Pedro Martinez pitched better.

You don't say

Manager Larry Rothschild was asked how good it was to be home after the lengthy road trip. "I can give you three real good reasons," he said. "Three children (Charlotte, Claire and Scott) under 6 years old."

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