By MIKE READLING
© St. Petersburg Times, published April 27, 2001
ST. PETERSBURG -- Hal McRae has made it a point to initiate his new players quickly after their arrivals. The Rays manager figures the faster he gets them in a game, the less nerves they will have when they get there.
Thursday he got the chance to introduce two pitchers -- Nos. 3 and 4 of his eight-game stint as manager -- as Jeff Wallace and Brian Rose made their Tampa Bay debut, appearing in relief of Bryan Rekar.
Wallace, who the Rays signed as a free agent in January, was selected from Triple-A Durham on Wednesday. He came on with one out in the sixth, allowing a single before getting out of the inning on a strike 'em out-throw 'em out double play.
"It felt good to get out there and get the first one out of the way," Wallace said. "It's really different than anywhere else once you get out there. You still have to pitch and catch the ball."
Rose, claimed off waivers Tuesday from the Mets, relieved Wallace with one out in the seventh and finished the game, allowing one run on two hits, striking out two and walking one.
Rose was scheduled to start today for the Mets but instead found himself in the Rays bullpen. His experience, he said, took a little bit of pressure off of his Rays debut.
"I've been pitching in the major leagues so I'm not about to put any extra pressure on myself," Rose said. "I just tried to keep the game close, get some innings under my belt and tried to get something going."
STILL HITTING: Russ Johnson hit a single in the eighth inning to extend his career-high hitting streak to nine games. The Rays team record is 18, held by Quinton McCracken.
FAN SUPPORT: Thursday's attendance of 11,083 came within 27 of tying the lowest all-time single-game total set Tuesday night. That makes the three-game Royals series the worst attended series at Tropicana Field, drawing 33,258 fans. The average of 11,086 for the series is almost 7,000 less than last year's Royals series, which averaged 18,044 per game.
RUN SUPPORT: Rekar is the major league's No. 1 victim when it comes to run support. When he has pitched, the Rays have scored 17 runs in 16 innings, an average of 1.06 a game.
FRIENDLY CONFINES: Momentum has been a key word in McRae's news conferences the past week, and Detroit is the perfect place for Tampa Bay to head after winning its first series of the season against the Royals.
Tampa Bay is 4-2 at Comerica Park and 16-13 overall against the Tigers, the only team the Rays have defeated in the season series in each of their first three seasons.
NO NO. 5: It appears Mike Judd is headed to the bullpen, as the Rays won't need a No. 5 pitcher until May 13. Thanks to off days May 3 and 7, No. 1 pitcher Albie Lopez can pitch on five days of rest. That allows Tampa Bay to go with a four-man rotation until the middle of the next road trip to Cleveland.
RECORD ATTEMPT: Fred McGriff heads to Detroit with the chance to hit a home run in his 38th major-league park. McGriff is tied with Mark McGwire with home runs in 37 stadiums but has never homered in Comerica Park. Greg Vaughn also has never knocked one out of Comerica Park despite hitting homers in 34 stadiums.
RUNNING RAYS: Tampa Bay has stolen eight bases in its past eight games after only seven steals in its first 14. BULLISH PEN: The Rays bullpen has retired 26 of the 33 batters it faced this series, and Esteban Yan became the third Ray to record back-to-back saves.
UP NEXT: TIGERS
7:05 p.m. tonight, 1:05 p.m. Saturday, 1:05 p.m. Sunday
SCOUTING REPORT: The Tigers have a beautiful new stadium, but they haven't done much else to turn things around. They did little to improve a team that went 79-83 last season. They parted ways with Juan Gonzalez and Hideo Nomo and appear to have come out on the short end of their annual trade with Houston -- catcher Mitch Meluskey is hurt, pitcher Chris Holt is 2-2 with a 5.40 ERA and outfielder Roger Cedeno is hitting .185 and was dropped to eighth in the order. Plus, they're averaging barely 19,000 a game and owner Mike Ilitch is making noise about cutbacks.
THE PAST WEEK: If you thought the Rays had it bad, consider this: The Tigers went into play Thursday having lost seven straight and are owners of the worst record in the majors. They are 2-8 at home, their worst start since 1992 when they went 0-8 and 1-10. They lost two of three to Baltimore. Manager Phil Garner shuffled his lineup, moving Jose Macias to leadoff and Robert Fick to second while dropping Damion Easley to seventh and Cedeno to eighth.
EX-RAYS: First baseman Ryan Jackson had a stellar 2000 season at Triple-A Durham, hitting .311 with 18 home runs and 85 RBI, but the Rays didn't re-sign him. The Sarasota resident had an impressive spring for the Tigers and made their roster.
PITCHING MATCHUPS: Tonight -- RHP Ryan Rupe (1-2, 6.64) vs. RHP Dave Mlicki (0-2, 7.71); Saturday -- RHP Mike Judd (0-0, 4.50) vs. LHP Matt Perisho (0-1, 7.36); Sunday -- RHP Albie Lopez (3-1, 1.66) vs. RHP Jeff Weaver (1-4, 5.09).
2000 SEASON SERIES: The Rays held a 5-4 advantage, going 4-2 at Comerica Park. The Rays have posted a winning record against the Tigers in each of their three seasons, something they haven't done against any other team.
WHO'S HOT: Tony Clark, usually a slow starter, is hitting .319 with four homers and 15 RBI.
WHO'S NOT: Cedeno is hitting .185 with an on-base percentage of .264. -- MARC TOPKIN
Royals designated hitter Dee Brown hit his first career home run Thursday, drilling a 1-0 fastball over the centerfield wall in the deepest part of Tropicana Field. A pretty impressive blast, but not quite what Brown had in mind when he envisioned his first home run.
"My mom and dad were here so I'm glad I hit in front of them," Brown said. "But I wanted the first one to be in Yankee Stadium. But I'll take this one I guess."
WHERE: Comerica Park, Detroit.
TV/RADIO: Ch. 32, 970 WFLA-AM, 760 WLCC-AM (Spanish).
RAYS-TIGERS 2000 RESULTS: April 14: Detroit 10, Tampa Bay 5; April 15: Tampa Bay 7, Detroit 0; April 16: Tampa Bay 7, Detroit 6; July 3: Detroit 5, Tampa Bay 4; July 4: Detroit 11, Tampa Bay 0; July 5: Tampa Bay 4, Detroit 1; July 24: Tampa Bay 4, Detroit 2; July 25: Detroit 6, Tampa Bay 4; July 26: Tampa Bay 6, Detroit 2
RYAN RUPE: Rupe is 1-2 with a 6.64 ERA. He is coming off his best start of the season Saturday in Baltimore, where he picked up his first win since Aug. 22.
DAVE MLICKI: Mlicki is 0-2 with a 7.71 ERA in four games this season. He is attempting to come back from a season in which he was held to 119 innings because of a chronic sinus infection.