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Two-HR game can't sell Vaughn on DH

By JOHN ROMANO

© St. Petersburg Times, published May 22, 2001


ST. PETERSBURG -- Greg Vaughn had perhaps his finest day as a designated hitter Sunday, but that does not mean he has any greater love for the job.

An outfielder for most of his 13 seasons in the majors, Vaughn has been forced into the DH role this season because of a sore right shoulder.

His distaste for the job goes beyond personal preference. Vaughn appears to be a better offensive player when he is in the lineup in leftfield.

Vaughn is hitting .400 with five home runs in 40 at-bats in leftfield this season. He is hitting .198 with six home runs in 116 at-bats as the DH, and that's after belting two homers against the Tigers on Sunday.

"I want to play leftfield every day," Vaughn said. "You can have that DH stuff."

Except Vaughn cannot play leftfield every day. He was scheduled to play left Sunday but had to be switched with Ben Grieve shortly before game time because of soreness in the back of the shoulder.

Vaughn is not a great defensive player, but he is probably stronger than Grieve in the field. Manager Hal McRae, however, says the issue is moot.

"He can't play leftfield every day, so that's not even a question," McRae said. "We don't plan to play him any more than two or three consecutive days in the outfield. And I'll try to play him when there's going to be a day off the next day."

BENEFACTOR: Vaughn hosted his second Evening of Jazz fundraiser for the Boys & Girls Clubs of St. Petersburg on Sunday at the Batter's Eye Restaurant. At the end of the evening, Vaughn made a personal donation of $10,000.

HARD LUCK CASE: It is not a particularly important distinction, but Bryan Rekar is probably the best 0-5 pitcher in the majors.

Rekar has pitched fairly well in his nine starts, but he has been victimized by a lack of offense and defense. The Rays have allowed 11 unearned runs while he is on the mound and have averaged 2.79 runs of offense per nine innings, the second-worst run support in the American League behind Orlando Hernandez of the Yankees.

"He's pitched his butt off, and we haven't helped him," McRae said. "If he continues to pitch well, good things will happen. He has to control what he can control. He can't control offense. He can't control defense. He can only control his own performance. He needs to do his job and let others do theirs, and he'll be fine."

TURNING THE CORNER: His past two starts have been vast improvements over the first month of the season, but Paul Wilson is not ready to call himself cured. Wilson said he has been more aggressive lately and needs to continue pitching that way to be effective.

"I don't want to say I'm comfortable because there's always things I can be working on," Wilson said. "But it's a lot more fun competing when you know what you want to do and are able to do it. It sure makes my life a lot better when I'm able to throw my fastball where I want to throw it."

MAKING NOISE: After a slump that seemed to include the entire lineup in April, the Rays have two players in the top 10 in major offensive categories. Vaughn, with his two home runs Sunday, moved into a tie for fourth in the American League with 11. Fred McGriff was tied for 10th in RBI with 31. McGriff was 12th in batting average at .316.

Tonight: Rangers at Rays, 7:15

WHERE: Tropicana Field, St. Petersburg.

TV/RADIO: FSN; WFLA-AM 970, WLCC-AM 760 (Spanish).

TICKETS: Available at the Tropicana Field box office, Ticketmaster outlets and Devil Rays Dugout stores at WestShore Plaza and the Brandown TownCenter. Tickets also can be purchased by phone at (727) 898-RAYS or (813) 282-RAYS.

TODAY'S PROMOTION: A coupon from the Tampa Tribune will get you an $8 general admission ticket for $3. The first 1,000 fans will receive Lincoln Mercury coolie cups.

INFO: Call 1-888-FAN-RAYS

The pitchers

BRYAN REKAR: Rekar (0-5, 5.05) has the second-longest losing streak in the American League, five. Despite his record, he is tied with Albie Lopez for the team lead in quality starts with five. Rekar is 0-2 with a 9.35 ERA against the Rangers in his career, including six starts.

KENNY ROGERS: Rogers (2-3, 6.56), a Plant City native, has given up at least five earned runs in six of his past seven starts. In his career against the Rays, Rogers is 3-1 with a 2.97 ERA. He beat the Rays in his only start against them last season.

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