By KEVIN KELLY
© St. Petersburg Times, published May 10, 2001
ST. PETERSBURG -- They stood near third base during batting practice Thursday and just chatted, emphasizing points of the discussion with their arms and hands.
A day after Rays manager Hal McRae pulled third baseman Vinny Castilla and then held a closed-door meeting with him, they met twice before Wednesday's game against Baltimore.
McRae said taking Castilla out for swinging at a first pitch in the sixth inning Tuesday was nothing personal.
"It's a team thing," McRae said. "I'm not singling out any one individual."
Castilla did not play Wednesday but is expected to return to the starting lineup today.
"I'm just going to get my work done (Wednesday)," he said.
Castilla, who was benched earlier this season for poor play, is batting .215 with three RBI in his past 20 games.
"I think he could be a good player ... a complementary player," McRae said. "I don't think anyone expects huge numbers. We're not talking about huge numbers. We're talking about complementing the other players in the lineup."
ROLLS TO THIRD: With Castilla on the bench and Aubrey Huff sick with a virus, Damian Rolls started at third against Baltimore and went 3-for-4 with two doubles.
It was Rolls' fourth career start.
"I like the way he plays," McRae said. "I like his energy. He played an outstanding ballgame."
Rolls did make one mistake, and McRae noticed.
He led off the seventh inning with a double to right. Rolls tried to stretch it into a triple despite Terry Collins' signal to stop and was tagged for the first out in the inning.
"I should've stayed where I was," Rolls said. "I ran through the stop sign. It's my bonehead play. I'm not too happy about it."
Rolls still is under the restrictions of the Rule 5 draft. The Rays have to keep him on the active roster for 21 more days or risk losing him to waivers.
TAKING A BREAK: Suggesting more sometimes means less, McRae will give second baseman Russ Johnson a day off Saturday.
Rolls will start in his place against Cleveland.
"Russ is playing more than he is accustomed to playing," McRae said. "He's played so well that I don't want to play him into the ground. He's given us good at-bats. He plays the game. I'm going to rest him just to try to keep his legs underneath him because I don't want to lose what he brings."
Johnson, who played in 74 games last season, is the only Rays regular batting over .300 and has hit in six straight games after a 1-for-3 performance Wednesday.
"I'm just going to do whatever I'm told to do," Johnson said. "I want to be in there every single day, I don't want any days off. He explained it to me and we had a good conversation about it and I'm fine. It's all to benefit me and the team."
ODDS AND ENDS: When Chris Richard singled to lead off the fifth, it broke a string of eight hitless innings by Rays pitchers against the Orioles. ... Orlando pitcher Joe Kennedy was promoted to Triple-A Durham. Kennedy led all Double-A and Triple-A pitchers with a 0.19 ERA in 47 innings. He has not allowed an earned run in his past 37 innings. ... Bakersfield infielder Nathan Kaup leads Class A with a .398 average.
WHERE: Tropicana Field.
TV/RADIO: Ch. 32; WFLA-AM 970, WLCC-AM 760 (Spanish).
TICKETS: Available at stadium box office and team stores at WestShore Plaza, Brandon TownCenter and BayWalk, and through Ticketmaster -- call (727) 898-RAYS or (813) 282-RAYS.
TODAY'S PROMOTION: None.
INFO: Call 1-888-FAN-RAYS.
PAUL WILSON: Wilson (1-4, 7.22) allowed a season-high seven runs over 51/3 innings against Cleveland on Saturday. In four career appearances against Baltimore, he is 0-1 with a 3.72 ERA.
PAT HENTGEN: Hentgen (1-3, 3.47) pitched well against the Rays in a 2-0 loss on April 13. In a complete-game performance, he struck out a season-high 10 but gave up a two-run home run to Greg Vaughn.
Rays manager Hal McRae is convinced that Rusty Meacham, who got his first win in more than four years Tuesday, would pitch every day if he could. "He's a breath of fresh air because he's so upbeat," McRae said. "His enthusiasm is greatly appreciated."