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Consistency eluding Sturtze

By MARC TOPKIN

© St. Petersburg Times, published June 3, 2001


SEATTLE -- Forget the pitching charts, the scouting reports, the weather maps, the horoscopes, the biorhythms or any other gimmick pitchers have been known to use.

SEATTLE -- Forget the pitching charts, the scouting reports, the weather maps, the horoscopes, the biorhythms or any other gimmick pitchers have been known to use.

Tanyon Sturtze has a simple plan for today's start against the Mariners:

"Get a win. That's my strategy."

Now that he is settled into the rotation, Sturtze is hoping to settle into a groove. Since rejoining the rotation in early May, he has made two good starts, two bad starts (14 runs in 92/3 innings) and another good start.

After beating the A's with an impressive seven-inning outing Tuesday, Sturtze has a 2-3 record and 5.65 ERA in five starts. He was 0-2 with a 5.40 ERA in 12 appearances out of the bullpen, where former manager Larry Rothschild moved him during spring training.

"He likes starting," manager Hal McRae. "He didn't like the bullpen, which I was unaware of. He has some margin for error when he starts. And he has starter stuff."

In 10 starts for the Rays over two seasons, Sturtze is 5-2 with a 3.99 ERA, and the Rays are 8-2.

UNDER EVERY ROCK: A lot went into Joe Kennedy's rapid rise to the majors, starting with the hard work of area scout Craig Weissman and supervisors Jack Gillis and Jerry Gardner.

Kennedy was a left-handed catcher ("My favorite position," he says) in high school near San Diego, but the Rays saw potential in his occasional pitching appearances and stuck with him.

His velocity eventually increased from the low 80s to 88-91 in junior college to the low- to mid-90s now. Kennedy got bigger and stronger, and a serious winter conditioning program launched his extraordinary success this season.

"It was always in there, and he put it together," scouting director Dan Jennings said. "It was a pure commitment to being as good as he could be."

HANDIWORK: The scrapes on rookie second baseman Damian Rolls' right hand looked a lot worse than they were. But the stiffness in his wrist kept him out of the lineup anyway.

Rolls, 23, got hurt diving for a foul pop in the fifth inning Friday night. It was the kind of scrappy play that has impressed Rays coaches, but it also may have shown the indiscretion of youth.

"He had no chance, and he has to know that," McRae said. "He showed a lot of hustle, but he also got hurt."

CATCHING ON: John Flaherty is scheduled to be behind the plate today and Tuesday, but McRae said is happy with the play of Mike DiFelice since making DiFelice the primary receiver.

"I've been very pleased, but it's a matter of if he's going to hold up and how well he's going to hold up and how many days can he effectively catch," McRae said.

Other changes today may include Jason Tyner in rightfield, rather than Randy Winn, and Russ Johnson at shortstop in place of Andy Sheets.

REHAB REPORT: Wilson Alvarez, recovering from May 2000 shoulder surgery, is scheduled to make his ninth appearance for the extended spring team Monday, pitching in a 1 p.m. game at the Naimoli complex in St. Petersburg. Juan Guzman, who had June 2000 surgery, also is scheduled to pitch.

RAYS BITS: Interleague play starts this week, with the Mets and Phillies coming to the Trop. ... Fred McGriff's 426th career homer Friday tied him with Billy Williams for 27th place on the all-time list.

Today: Rays at Mariners, 4:35

WHERE: Safeco Field, Seattle.

TV/RADIO: Ch. 32; WFLA-AM 970, WLCC-AM 760 (Spanish).

2001 RESULTS/SCHEDULE:

Friday Mariners 8-4

Saturday late

Today at Seattle, 4:35

8/28 at Trop, 7:15

8/29 at Trop, 7:15

8/30 at Trop, 12:15

9/3 at Seattle, 10:05

9/4 at Seattle, 10:05

9/5 at Seattle, 10:05

WEATHER FORECAST: Scattered showers with a high around 58 degrees, low around 47 degrees.

The pitchers

TANYON STURTZE: Sturtze (2-4, 5.55) has two wins in five starts, second on the team to Albie Lopez, who has three in 11. Sturtze held the A's to one run over a career-high tying seven innings Tuesday. The Rays are 8-2 in Sturtze's 10 career starts. He has not started against Seattle.

FREDDY GARCIA: Garcia, acquired in the July 1998 Randy Johnson trade, is headed toward another solid season with a 5-0 record and 3.97 ERA through 11 starts. The 24-year-old right-hander ranks sixth in the league with a .231 opponents batting average.

You don't say

Mike DiFelice was warming up in the on-deck circle Friday when his bat snapped, just as Greg Vaughn's did 10 days ago. The barrel of DiFelice's bat went flying toward the dugout, hitting Russ Johnson on the hand. "I was just swinging, and it cracked right in half," DiFelice said. "I guess some of our bats have hairline fractures. It was a good bat. I was grooming it for the game. I guess it didn't want to hit."

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