By JOHN ROMANO
© St. Petersburg Times, published May 13, 2001
CLEVELAND -- Rays players do not seem concerned about getting their paychecks. They are more worried about earning their checks.
Most players knew nothing about a Saturday New York Times report that said in-fighting among the team's ownership group could lead to the club failing to meet payroll obligations on either the 15th or 30th of this month.
Rays senior vice president John Higgins told the St. Petersburg Times on Friday that the report about the payroll problems was totally untrue.
"I don't think major-league baseball would let that happen," outfielder Greg Vaughn said. "The only talking we need to be doing in here is talking about getting us some wins."
Manager Hal McRae said he had no plans to talk to his team about the report.
"We don't know anything about it. What could I tell them? Nothing," McRae said. "I don't think anyone is concerned. There's no need for anyone to be concerned."
This is not the first time there have been rumors about cash-flow problems within the organization. There were similar reports in April, shortly before managing general partner Vince Naimoli stepped aside to become team chairman.
The latest New York Times story said the franchise's five general partners want Naimoli completely out of the picture.
"I've said it before and I'll say it again: That stuff should be the least of our worries," catcher John Flaherty said. "We need to take care of ourselves (on the field) first. That shouldn't even be a concern."
Naimoli is not on the road trip and was not available for comment.
BACK AGAIN: One of the first pitchers cut during spring training this season, Tony Fiore, immediately went to work to redeem himself. He pitched 201/3 scoreless innings at Triple-A Durham, going 1-0 with three saves.
He was rewarded Saturday when the Rays called him up to replace Ariel Prieto, who was placed on the disabled list.
"That was the most disappointing thing, to get cut during the first cuts. If anything, I was embarrassed about it," Fiore said. "But it's worked out. I knew I had to go down and do good -- real good -- to have a shot at coming back. I came up here earlier than I even thought I would."
McRae said Fiore likely will work in the seventh and eighth innings along with Rusty Meacham.
Fiore becomes the 17th pitcher used by the Rays through 36 games.
ARIEL VIEW: Prieto, who was examined by Dr. Koco Eaton in St. Petersburg on Saturday, is scheduled for an MRI on Monday. Prieto spent two weeks on the DL with shoulder pain while at Triple-A Durham earlier this season.
CAUTION TO WIN OUT: The Rays will skip Albie Lopez's turn in the rotation Tuesday to give his sore right groin extra time to heal.
Lopez threw in the bullpen before Saturday's game and said he felt fine.
"We'll see how it goes (this) morning. We'll see if it's sore after throwing," Lopez said. "But I feel fine."
The Rays will not have to adjust the rotation because Lopez's next start was scheduled to come the day after a day off. He likely will pitch Saturday.
"He looked good, but he could still feel it," said pitching coach Bill Fischer, who observed Lopez's bullpen session. "We have the off day, so there's no sense in pushing it. Why take a chance on hurting him?"
MINOR MATTERS: Pitching prospect Matt White was placed on the disabled list at Triple-A Durham with shoulder inflammation.
Delvin James was called up from Double-A Orlando to take his spot and Ed Kofler of Tarpon Springs was promoted from Class A Bakersfield to Orlando.
The Rays also signed pitcher Brad Cornett from Bridgeport of the independent Atlantic League. Cornett will report to Durham.
WHERE: Jacobs Field, Cleveland.
TV/RADIO: Ch. 10; WFLA-AM 970, WLCC-AM 760 (Spanish).
Rays in 1-run games: 3-2
Rays vs. AL East: 7-18
Rays vs. AL Central: 3-7
Rays vs. AL West: 0-0
Rays vs. RH starters: 9-23
Rays vs. LH starters: 1-2
When scoring 4 or more runs: 9-10
When scoring fewer than 4: 1-16
In day games: 3-9
In night games: 7-16
TANYON STURTZE: Sturtze (0-2, 5.40) makes his second start since coming out of the bullpen. He went five innings and gave up three runs in his first start. As a Ranger, he made two starts against the Indians in 1997 without a decision.
DAVE BURBA: Burba (5-1, 5.01) is making his first start against the Rays in 2001. He is 3-2 with a 3.10 ERA in his career against Tampa Bay. Burba leads the Indians in victories and is tied for second in the American League.
There was a collective gasp at Jacobs Field on Friday night when Rays second baseman Damian Rolls did a flip into the first row of the stands while chasing a foul ball. Rolls was not hurt and popped back up immediately. Still, the play was a popular topic in the clubhouse as players asked Rolls how he avoided injury. Manager Hal McRae said from his seat in the dugout he could not see the play. But knowing Rolls' style of play, he knew what happened. "I didn't see who went over the rail," McRae said. "But I knew which player went over the rail."