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Martinez may get work in at second

By MIKE READLING

© St. Petersburg Times, published May 23, 2001


ST. PETERSBURG -- Last week, Rays manager Hal McRae said Felix Martinez starting again at shortstop was "off the radar screen."

Tuesday, Martinez flickered back on as a second baseman.

McRae said that to get Martinez into the lineup occasionally, he may play the former starting shortstop at second base.

"I told him to take ground balls out there today," McRae said. "I'm going to use him to spell Andy (Sheets) some at short, and then we may use him to play second base."

Martinez was the starting shortstop until May 16, when Sheets was called up from Triple-A Durham after Martinez made his league-leading 12th error. In 200 major-league games, Martinez has played second once, when he was with the Royals in 1998.

"Anything I can do to help the team win," Martinez said. "It's easier to play second base."

McRae also has had outfielder Randy Winn taking grounders at second, hoping to use him as a backup or emergency infielder. Winn played second at Santa Clara University until 1995.

"It may not be this year, but it's worth a try," McRae said. "Maybe he can get some playing time in winter ball."

MEATY MIDDLE: Much to the McRae's delight -- not to mention that of pitchers Albie Lopez and Bryan Rekar -- the middle of the Rays lineup has been showing signs of life.

Fred McGriff, Ben Grieve and Greg Vaughn have been reborn in May, and they seem intent on changing Rekar and Lopez's position near the bottom of the league in run support.

McGriff entered Tuesday's game with back-to-back three-hit games and had hit in 18 of his past 21 games, raising his average from .239 to .317. McGriff is sixth in the American League in hitting this month at .397.

Grieve is batting .379 over his past 15 games, raising his average from .184 to .262. He was 16 for his past 37 before Tuesday's game and was batting .361 in May after a .190 April.

Vaughn homered twice Sunday and had five home runs in his past 38 at-bats in 10 games before Tuesday.

"They've been swinging the bats better, like they're capable of swinging them," McRae said. "They are proven hitters, and they're beginning to hit their stride."

INTERESTED OPPOSITION: There will be one very interested party whenever Grieve comes to the plate or makes a play during this series, and it has nothing to do with trade rumors.

Grieve's father, Tom, is a broadcaster for the Rangers.

"I'm like any parent. I enjoy seeing my kid and having lunch," Tom Grieve said.

The elder Grieve has his allegiances to Texas -- he is employed by the Rangers -- but said if it came down to it, he'd root for his son to win the game.

"Inside, I hope he gets a hit every time up," Grieve said. "And if the bases are loaded and the game is tied in the ninth inning and it means our team loses, I don't think there's one player on our team that would not hope the same thing for his own son in the same situation. So I don't feel guilty feeling that way."

THUMBS UP: Lopez reported no more problems with his bruised right thumb and said he is on track to start Friday as scheduled.

Tonight: Rangers at Rays, 7:15

WHERE: Tropicana Field, St. Petersburg.

RADIO: 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: Web site Wednesday -- With a coupon from the team's official Web site (www.devilrays.com), fans can get $14 outfield seats for $7, $23 lower reserved seats for $10 and $35 Diamond Club Box seats at two for one.

INFO: Call 1-888-FAN-RAYS

The pitchers

BRIAN ROSE: Rose (0-2, 7.47) makes his third start after replacing Mike Judd in the rotation. Rose is looking for his first win since Sept. 14, when he pitched for the Colorado Rockies. He is 14-20 with a 5.86 ERA in 52 career starts, 0-3 against the Rangers.

RYAN GLYNN: Glynn (1-3, 6.81) makes his first start since leaving a game May 16 with a small blister on his right index finger. He is 1-0 with a 2.12 ERA in his past three starts after spending two weeks in the bullpen. He is 0-0 with a 3.65 ERA in three outings against the Rays.

Outta leftfield

In honor of Rays pitching coach Bill Fischer, we're going to turn this into a special anniversary edition and rename it "Outta Rightfield." That's because 38 years ago Tuesday, Fischer gave up a home run to rightfield that Mickey Mantle called "the hardest ball I ever hit." It was the bottom of the 11th inning, and Fischer's Kansas City Athletics were tied with the Yankees when Mantle turned on a 2-and-2 fastball, blasting it off the Yankee Stadium facade 536 feet away in right. If the ball had been about a foot to the right, it would have become the only ball to leave the park.

"I remember everything about it," Fischer said. "I threw four straight curveballs, and then I tried to blow a fastball by him. It was a four-seamer."

The next day, Fischer's teammate Gino Cimoli found a long ladder and propped it up in rightfield, poking fun at his pitcher.

Attendance report

TUESDAY'S CROWD: 11,179

TROPICANA FIELD CAPACITY: 44,445

SEASON TOTAL: 343,623

PER-GAME AVERAGE: 15,619

2001 LARGEST CROWD: 41,546

2001 SMALLEST CROWD: 11,056

2000 PER-GAME AVERAGE: 19,368

1999 PER-GAME AVERAGE: 19,296

1998 PER-GAME AVERAGE: 30,939

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