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Huff might start again -- in Durham

By MARC TOPKIN

© St. Petersburg Times, published May 1, 2001


BALTIMORE -- Aubrey Huff likely is going to start playing regularly again soon. Whether it is for the Rays or the Triple-A Durham Bulls remains to be seen.

Huff started five straight games after being recalled from Durham on April 13, playing ahead of struggling Vinny Castilla. But Hal McRae put Castilla back in the lineup when he was named manager April 18 and Huff has started two of the 12 games since.

That's not the best way for a 24-year-old who is one of the organization's top prospects to develop, so it is possible a change could come soon. And with McRae somewhat encouraged by Castilla's recent performance in the field and at the plate, Huff could be headed back to the minors.

"I kind of catch myself wondering about that myself at times," Huff said. "As a young player coming up, I'm not sure if something will happen in the near future or what. I haven't talked to anybody about it, but I would figure they want me to get some at-bats either here, if something happens soon, or going back down there. I don't know if they have this planned for me all year, but I don't see how."

Until then, Huff will continue working on his defense in extra practice sessions with coach Terry Collins and taking additional batting practice.

"It's frustrating because I'm not used to sitting on the bench," Huff said. "I'm coming out and working hard and doing early work to stay sharp. ... I'm trying my best so that whenever I have another opportunity I can show I'm ready to play."

Castilla was hit on the right hand by a pitch in the sixth inning, but X-rays showed no break and he said he expects to be in the lineup tonight.

LEE'S TOWN: First-base coach Lee May played six seasons (plus five games) with the Reds, three seasons with the Astros, six with the Orioles and two with the Royals. But to May, Baltimore is where he feels most at home. "I'm more an Oriole," May said. "I grew up when I was here." May, who came back to coach the 1995 season with the Orioles, was a popular figure around Camden Yards Monday afternoon. "I was here for a few years," May said. "I've got a few friends here."

WELL-ARMED: With no need for a fifth starter until May 13, Mike Judd will go into the bullpen, giving the Rays a seven-man relief crew.

COMMUNITY MATTERS: Community relations manager Liz Lauck will head a team of Rays employees sprucing up the Joshua House, a residential treatment center for children who are victims of abuse, Wednesday in Tampa. ... The Rays' wives group will conduct a Baby Goods Drive on Sunday, benefiting the Alpha House, which helps pregnant women in crisis. Fans who bring diapers, formula, baby clothing or other such items get a voucher for a free general admission ticket to a future game.

RAYS BITS: Gerald Williams was named player of the week after hitting .409. He also set a team record with eight stolen bases in April. ... Jose Guillen threw Brady Anderson out at home in the seventh for his fifth outfield assist, tying Cleveland's Juan Gonzalez for the league lead. ... Melvin Mora has hit three homers since coming to the O's in July -- all against the Rays.

You don't say

A Baltimore reporter didn't get very far when asking manager Hal McRae if the ownership turmoil was distracting to the players. "We're not doing our jobs," McRae said. "We can't concern ourselves with anything else."

Tonight's game

Rays at Orioles, 7:05 p.m.

WHERE: Camden Yards.

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

* * *

2001 results/schedule at Baltimore:

April 13 2-0 W

April 14 5-6 L

April 15 7-4 W

April 16 2-6 L

April 30 3-5 L

May1 7:05 p.m.

May2 7:05 p.m.

July31 7:05 p.m.

Aug.1 7:05 p.m.

Aug.2 3:05 p.m.

* * *

WEATHER FORECAST: Partly cloudy with a high of 79 and little wind.

The pitchers

BRYAN REKAR: Rekar, 0-3 with a 5.14 ERA, is off to a rough start, and his teammates haven't helped -- his run support of 1.29 per nine innings is the lowest of any AL starter. Opponents have a .276 average. Rekar is 2-1 with a 4.01 ERA in four starts against Baltimore.

JASON JOHNSON: Johnson, 1-2 with a 4.67 ERA, is a former Ray who has blossomed into a decent starter. This is his third outing in 2001 against the Rays. He held them to three hits and one run over six innings to win April 16 but gave up five runs over six innings in an April 21 loss.

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