By MIKE READLING
© St. Petersburg Times,
published June 6, 2001
ST. PETERSBURG -- Josh Hamilton's appearance in St. Petersburg did not bring the hoopla or circumstances the Rays and their star outfielder expected.
Instead of ripping his way through the minors before making his major-league debut this season, Hamilton battled the flu and struggled through Orlando's first 23 games before hurting his back and missing the past month. Rather than Tropicana Field, Hamilton can be found rehabilitating across town at the Naimoli Complex with the Rays extended spring training teams.
"I'm just doing exercises, trying to strengthen it," Hamilton said. "They don't let me do too much baseball stuff."
Hamilton, 20, seemed to have the inflammation conquered last week and was set to play in his first game May 29 at Dunedin. A short bus ride quelled that thought quickly.
"I was actually doing good, swinging the bat, and I was all set to play," Hamilton said. "But when we got there and I got off the bus I couldn't hardly move. That was a little setback."
Hamilton has had two cortisone shots in his back and is expected to have another Friday as he readies for game action that he said could come Tuesday or June 14. Until then, he will show up every morning at the Naimoli Complex and do his exercises before returning home to Bradenton.
Hamilton hasn't been to any O-Rays games, saying it hurts too much to have to sit and watch, but he also hasn't let frustration ruin his season.
But he has noticed the number of players advancing through the Rays farm system this season.
"This is a bad year to be hurt, if you know what I mean," Hamilton said. "I think everything happens for a reason. Maybe I needed this little break to get away and clear my head a little bit. Maybe this is for the best."
ALL-STAR CAST: Durham manager Bill Evers can add another accolade to an already well-stocked resume.
Evers, who won his 1,000th minor-league game last season and has led the Bulls to the International League's Southern Division title each of the past three seasons, was named the league's All-Star team manager. Evers will lead his team against the Pacific Coast League All-Stars on July 11 in the Triple-A All-Star Game at Victory Field in Indianapolis.
Evers has managed teams at the Class A and Double-A levels, served on the Triple-A level two other times and was on the coaching staff for the first All-Star Futures Game in 1999 in Boston.
Charleston placed three players on the South Atlantic League's All-Star Game, June 19 in Hickory, N.C.
Catcher Daniel Marsh, first baseman Justin Schuda and outfielder Adam Bonner will represent the RiverDogs on the Southern Division team.
ON TOP: Bakersfield's 6-4 win over Visalia on Monday night did more than move the Blaze into a first-place tie with San Jose in the California League. It also gave the Blaze the best record in the Rays' minor-league system.
Bakersfield, 29-28 entering Tuesday's game, was the only Rays farm team above .500 (Durham was 28-28), and the only team leading its division. Orlando was 25-31 and Charleston 26-32.
The Blaze sat 11/2 games ahead of Visalia with 13 games remaining in the chase for the first-half pennant. Its next six games are at home and they are very important: Three are against Visalia, three are against San Jose.