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Start gives Cox chance to relax

By JOHN ROMANO

© St. Petersburg Times, published May 14, 2001


CLEVELAND -- Slumped in a chair in the corner of the clubhouse, Steve Cox was joking with teammates that he was too tired to get up. This is what happens when they make you play a full nine innings.

Cox, who was returned to part-time status when Hal McRae took over as manager, made the most of a rare start on Sunday.

After going nearly three weeks without an RBI and 10 days without a start, Cox drove in a career-high five runs with two singles and a home run.

Although he joked about being fatigued after a full day's work, he said the toughest days are when he is not playing.

"When you know you're in the lineup, you're able to relax and go out and play," Cox said. "When you're not playing, you don't know when you're going to be in. At any given time during a game, you can go in. I won't let myself relax. It's tough. It's a mental strain.

"Especially the way the team has been playing. The only thing worse than losing is sitting and watching them lose."

Cox lost his job as designated hitter because McRae wanted to move Greg Vaughn to DH and Ben Grieve to leftfield, and get Jose Guillen in the lineup in rightfield. Cox now plays only when Fred McGriff gets a day off at first.

"I wish he could play. He needs to play, but he's a first baseman. And we have a first baseman," McRae said. "He's going to play. He's going to play every day on this ballclub at some point. That time is not now."

BOINK!: For the third time in nine days, Felix Martinez was hit by a pitch by a Cleveland pitcher. Indians reliever Steve Reed has twice been the perpetrator, hitting Martinez in the leg Friday and Sunday.

Martinez had some harsh words for Reed as he went to first base Sunday, and home-plate umpire Alfonso Marquez warned both benches.

"We've hit the guy three times and every time he acts like we're trying to kill him," Indians manager Charlie Manuel said. "If we hit somebody, we should hit Cox."

Martinez will have plenty of time to cool off. Sunday's game is the last time the Rays face the Indians this season.

"I want to see that guy again," Martinez said of Reed.

GETTING ANOTHER CHANCE: Brian Rose was concerned that if he did not pitch well Saturday, he would not get another shot in the rotation. Rose pitched horribly, but will nonetheless get a second chance Thursday in Kansas City.

McRae acknowledged that he did not have many other options, but also said he wanted to establish some consistency in the rotation.

The Rays have used eight starters this season.

"We need to try to stick with something," McRae said. "It doesn't do us much good to not have direction. (We need) to at least try to make some attempt at having direction."

SOMETHING TO CONSIDER: Because of his lack of patience, Gerald Williams has never been an ideal leadoff hitter. And statistically speaking, the Rays have been better when he is not hitting No. 1. During the past two seasons, Tampa Bay is 63-101 when Williams is in the leadoff spot. The Rays are 8-6 when he hits No. 2, as he did Sunday.

Tampa Bay is 15-16 with Randy Winn in the leadoff spot since the start of the 2000 season.

WAITING FOR A SAVE: The Rays have had so few leads, closer Esteban Yan has been underworked. He came in Sunday with a 7-0 lead because he had not pitched in five days. Yan retired the Indians in the ninth, giving him six straight scoreless outings.

CHEAP LABOR: Manuel and Cubs manager Don Baylor have expressed interest in Vinny Castilla, who was released by the Rays on Thursday. Baylor managed Castilla in Colorado.

"What really bothers me is how they portrayed him as a malcontent," Baylor told the Chicago Tribune. "That is so far from the truth."

Any team that signs Castilla can get him for a prorated portion of the $200,000 minimum salary.

You don't say

John Flaherty has been banged up in a variety of ways in his 14 years as a professional catcher, but he was introduced to a new danger Saturday night. Indians catcher Einar Diaz's bat snapped on his backswing and the barrel struck Flaherty on the left shoulder. Flaherty fell backward but was not harmed. "It caught me by surprise more than anything. It didn't really hurt," Flaherty said. "I'd never seen that one before."

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