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Williams turns move in lineup into hits

By JOHN ROMANO

© St. Petersburg Times, published May 27, 2001


ST. PETERSBURG -- He was moved from leadoff to No. 2 in the batting order a couple of weeks ago. The past two days, he has hit sixth and seventh.

Gerald Williams says regardless of where he lands in the order, it is no excuse for not performing as he should.

The Devil Rays centerfielder was the team MVP in 2000 when he became the ninth leadoff hitter in major-league history with at least 20 home runs and 80 RBI. He has not enjoyed the same success this season, hitting in the low .200s with little power for most of two months.

"By all means, I am not playing as well as I'm capable," Williams said. Manager Hal McRae said moving Williams down in the lineup has more to do with the speed players like Randy Winn and Damian Rolls have brought to the top of the lineup.

Hitting seventh for the first time as a Ray on Friday night, Williams had two singles. Hitting sixth for the first time on Saturday, he hit his first home run in more than a month.

"It doesn't matter where I am (in the lineup)," Williams said. "I'm not playing well -- it's just that. It's my responsibility to play productive baseball offensively."

AS THE ROTATION TURNS: Brian Rose is listed as the starter for Monday, but the Rays are expected to recall Ryan Rupe from Triple-A Durham before then. Rose has had three starts and has averaged less than four innings per outing.

Rupe began in the Rays rotation but was sent down after going 2-4 with a 9.00 ERA. In two starts at Durham, Rupe is 0-1 with an 0.82 ERA. He was skipped in his last scheduled turn in Durham's rotation so he would be rested for Monday.

SITDOWN: A day after saying Albie Lopez was "not focused" for his start against the Angels, McRae said he considered the matter closed. Lopez was clearly unhappy with McRae's characterization and spoke with the manager about it afterward. "He voiced his opinion," McRae said. "I feel better when they voice their opinions."

RECOVERY TIME: Disappointed about going on the disabled list nearly two weeks ago, second baseman Russ Johnson acknowledges it was probably the right decision. Johnson's strained quadricep was originally thought to be a 4-5 day injury, but the Rays put him on the 15-day disabled list because they were short on infielders.

"I strained it a little more than I thought at first," Johnson said. "But it's coming along."

Johnson is to begin a three-day rehab stint with Double-A Orlando and should be activated when he is eligible to come off the disabled list Thursday.

MINOR MATTERS: At Triple-A Durham, Joe Kennedy threw six shutout innings Friday against Ottawa. The left-hander is 6-0 with an 0.68 ERA in 10 starts between Double A and Triple A ... First baseman Dan Grummitt was promoted from Class A Bakersfield and homered in his Orlando debut.

HOO-RAYS: Ben Grieve extended his streak of reaching base in a game to 33. ... St. Petersburg's Scott Winnier had a time of 16:10 to win the Rays 5K Run for the third straight year. Lisa Valentine of Tierra Verde won the women's at 18:52. Four members of the Rays staff participated: trainer Jamie Reed (23:15), home clubhouse attendant Jason Shawger (24:19), strength and conditioning coach Jason Trott (25:52) and clubhouse manager Carlos Ledezma (29:58).

Today: Angels at Rays, 1:15

WHERE: Tropicana Field, St. Petersburg.

TV/RADIO: Ch. 10; WFLA-AM 970, WLCC-AM 760 (Spanish).

TODAY'S PROMOTION: St. Petersburg Times Family Fun Day -- a coupon from the Times will get a lower deck outfield ticket, a hot dog and Pepsi for $12 or an upper general admission ticket for $3. Military discount weekend continues -- all active and retired military personnel with identification can receive a $14 outfield seat for $5. The first 7,500 children receive a Rays Fox Sports Net autograph book. Children can run the bases after the game.

INFO: Call 1-888-FAN-RAYS

The pitchers

BRYAN REKAR: Rekar (0-6, 5.06) has the longest losing streak in the AL at six. The Rays' record is eight. Despite this, he leads the team with six quality starts. Rekar has the second-worst run support in baseball, 2.45 per nine innings. He is 0-2 with a 4.50 ERA against the Angels.

ISMAEL VALDES: Valdes (2-3, 4.50) is making his first career start against the Rays. A National League veteran with the Dodgers and Cubs, Valdes signed with the Angels as a free agent in the off-season. Valdes is 13-24 since the start of the 1999 season.

Outta leftfield

Greg Vaughn had a difficult day in leftfield, but he still drew applause for his efforts. Vaughn dropped three balls after covering long distances to make the plays. He recovered once to throw out a runner at second, was charged with an error on another and was greeted with an ovation after tumbling head over heels in the bullpen on yet another. "He gives 100 percent all of the time," manager Hal McRae said. "I appreciate that and the fans gave him an ovation for the hustle play in the bullpen. That's the way it should be done."

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