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Martinez is adding offense to the mix

By MIKE READLING

© St. Petersburg Times, published April 21, 2001


ST. PETERSBURG -- As far as batting stats go, Felix Martinez is in uncharted territory.

The 26-year old shortstop has hit safely in his past six at-bats, tying a club record, and holds a .328 batting average, tops on the team after his 4-for-4 night Friday. The four hits tied a career record.

That's an improvement of 114 points on last year's final numbers and the highest average he has posted in his eight-year professional career.

The Rays have become accustomed to Martinez's defensive plays but the new-found pop is something that could prove even more important from the No. 9 spot in the lineup. Martinez said the high numbers are the result of a new philosophy at the plate.

"I feel comfortable every time I'm up there," said Martinez, who also committed his fourth error Friday night. "I just try to hit the ball to the other side and use my speed. Anything to help my team win."

TURNING AROUND: Vinny Castilla broke an 0-for-28 slump with a seventh-inning double and finished the game 1-for-4 with a run scored.

In doing so, he raised hopes that his .174 average is on the rise.

"He swung the bat well," manager Hal McRae said. "If he continues, who knows? He's had good years before ... "

KEEP 'EM FRESH: McRae has made it clear that just because a player doesn't start doesn't mean he's going to get lost in the shuffle.

Friday he outlined a plan to get all of his bench players playing time this weekend and said he will use backup catcher Mike DiFelice twice a week during seven-game weeks and once a week during short weeks. DiFelice will catch when Bryan Rekar pitches.

McRae said Randy Winn will start in centerfield today, Damian Rolls will be at second with Steve Cox at first, and designated hitter Greg Vaughn and leftfielder Ben Grieve will swap positions for Sunday's game.

MEDICAL UPDATE: Rays medical director Dr. James Andrews was in town to check on some of his patients and examine a new one.

Andrews looked at the surgically repaired rotator cuffs of pitchers Juan Guzman and Wilson Alvarez before examining recently demoted Ariel Prieto's sore shoulder.

Andrews said Prieto, who was sent to Triple A on April 13, has shoulder tendinitis but should be throwing in about a week.

Guzman is set to go on a long-toss program to build strength in his shoulder and could throw off a mound by the end of next week. Alvarez is scheduled to start an extended spring game Monday.

EJECTED IN DURHAM: Minor-leaguers Jason Standridge, Bobby Smith and Terrell Lowery were ejected from their Triple-A game against Toledo Thursday night after a brawl in the second inning.

The problem began when Standridge hit the Mud Hens' Tom Evans after giving up back-to-back home runs, putting Durham in an 8-0 hole. Evans charged the mound but was tackled by catcher Paul Hoover as both benches and bullpens emptied.

Standridge came away from the scrap with a reddened left eye and a sore right wrist and Evans had a bloody nose. Fines and suspensions are possible.

READING TREE: Pitcher Rusty Meacham will read children's stories to youngsters at 11 a.m. today at BayWalk in St. Petersburg.

Today: Rays vs. Orioles, 4:15

WHERE: Tropicana Field.

TV/RADIO: Fox Sport 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.

TODAY'S PROMOTIONS: It's Autograph Saturday. Four players will sign autographs from 2:55 to 3:25 p.m. Also, every fan receives a RaysBall poster. Today is also Kids Opening Day. Randomly selected children will take tickets, handle the public address system and work the scoreboard.

The pitchers

RYAN RUPE: Rupe is 0-2 with a 7.53 ERA. He has no wins since Aug.22. In his last outing, Rupe gave up two runs on six hits in 52/3 innings, striking out three and walking three before taking the loss. Rupe is 3-3 lifetime with a 5.61 ERA against the O's.

JASON JOHNSON: Johnson is 1-0 with a 2.45 ERA. He became the first Oriole starter to earn a win Monday, beating the Rays 6-2. Johnson, a former Ray, is 2-1 lifetime against Tampa Bay with a 6.43 ERA. In 14 innings, he has given up 15 hits and 10 earned runs.

Outta leftfield

Stuck in the bottom of Ben Grieve's locker is a glove that never will see game action. For good reason.

"It's kind of bright," Grieve said.

The green Rawlings was sent to Grieve because he wore it one year when he played for Oakland. Part of the problem now is the glove doesn't match the Rays' colors (they're darker). The other part is, Grieve got tired of being the object of ridicule.

"People were always making fun of me," Grieve said. "I wore it the one year in Oakland but that was only because I didn't have anything else to wear."

Attendance report

FRIDAY'S CROWD: 13,013

TROPICANA FIELD CAPACITY: 44,445

SEASON TOTAL: 141,035

PER GAME AVERAGE: 20,148

2001 LARGEST CROWD: 41,546

2001 SMALLEST CROWD: 14,023

2000 PER GAME AVERAGE: 19,368

1999 PER GAME AVERAGE: 19,296

1998 PER GAME AVERAGE: 30,939

Outta leftfield

Stuck in the bottom of Ben Grieve's locker is a glove that never will see game action. For good reason.

"It's kind of bright," Grieve said.

The green Rawlings was sent to Grieve because he wore it one year when he played for Oakland. Part of the problem now is the glove doesn't match the Rays' colors (they're darker). The other part is, Grieve got tired of being the object of ridicule.

"People were always making fun of me," Grieve said. "I wore it the one year in Oakland but that was only because I didn't have anything else to wear."

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