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McHale deal still several days away

By MARC TOPKIN

© St. Petersburg Times, published May 3, 2001


BALTIMORE -- John McHale Jr. has spoken with Tampa Bay representatives and remains on track to become the team's chief operating officer, but the deal is unlikely to be completed until next week.

McHale is expected to meet with team ownership officials in the bay area in the next several days to discuss and finalize details of what is expected to be a multi-year contract. McHale is a Detroit native, and to get him to leave, the Rays probably would need to offer some contractual and financial guarantees.

The New York Times reported McHale would visit today, but others said Wednesday the trip would not occur until the first part of next week. A team spokesman said he had no knowledge of any meeting planned for today.

McHale, contacted Wednesday morning in Detroit, did not have much to say about the situation. "I'm not able to comment," he said.

ROLE REVERSAL: Tanyon Sturtze is looking forward to the opportunity to go back into the rotation, where he was 3-1 with a 2.76 ERA in six starts last season. "This is my chance and hopefully it will go well," he said. "Hopefully I can pick up where I left off last year."

Ryan Rupe, in contrast, doesn't know what to expect going into the bullpen for the first time in his career.

"I'm going to go down there and pitch my (butt) off," he said. "If this is what they think will make the team better, I'm more than happy to go do it. I'll give it a hoot."

Manager Hal McRae announced the change after the game, hoping Sturtze, 30, will stabilize the rotation and Rupe, 26, will prosper as a late-inning setup man. "We know (Rupe) has the stuff," McRae said. "We don't know how well he'll do, but we'll give it a shot."

HIT SQUAD: More than a half-dozen players came out early Wednesday for extra hitting practice.

"We focused on hitting the ball to the opposite field," McRae said. "It was a good workout and I really think we got something accomplished."

By hitting to the opposite field, batters work on staying behind the ball, McRae said. "Slumps are generally created when hitters are leaving the ball, so this is an effort to get behind the ball and stay with it a little bit longer," he said.

SHORT STORY: With Felix Martinez struggling defensively, the Rays may consider adding a true backup shortstop to the roster. They have veteran Andy Sheets at Triple A, though he is hitting .225. McRae said they will not bring back veteran Ozzie Guillen, who was released in spring training and apparently retired. "We're not going to revisit that," McRae said.

MINOR MATTERS: Brent Abernathy, out with a non-displaced fracture of the left rib cage since April 11, was activated by Triple-A Durham. Bobby Smith (hamstring) and Mike Caruso (oblique) were put on the disabled list. ... Left-hander Joe Kennedy had another strong outing for Double-A Orlando on Tuesday, allowing just four hits and an unearned run in eight innings of a 4-3 loss to Mobile. Kennedy, 21, is 4-0 with a 0.22 ERA and 43 strikeouts (and three walks) in 40 innings over six starts.

RAYS BITS: Fans at Tropicana Field can cast their All-Star ballots starting Friday. ... Fred McGriff took Wednesday off, with Steve Cox starting at first. "It was negotiated," McRae said.

You don't say

After letting his hair grow out for weeks, Jose Guillen, he of the .206 batting average and three RBI, showed up at the ballpark Wednesday with his head shaved. "It was time to try something different," Guillen said. "I'm trying to find some good luck." Something worked: Guillen went 2-for-4 to raise his average to .224.

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