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Sharing job irks Cairo

By MARC TOPKIN

© St. Petersburg Times, published June 16, 2000


ST. PETERSBURG -- Bobby Smith's arrival means you'll be seeing less of Miguel Cairo. How much less remains to be seen.

Smith started at second base Thursday, and manager Larry Rothschild said Smith will be there "for a while."

"Bobby played second base for most of his games in the minor leagues and did very well, and to move him right now is not something I want to do," Rothschild said. "I want to let him get settled in where he is comfortable and gets some at-bats and hopefully swings the bat the way he has. I'm not going to put a timetable on it. I want to give him a chance ... and then we'll see where we are."

Rothschild met with Cairo earlier Thursday to discuss the situation, and an agitated Cairo kicked over a garbage can afterward.

"I don't like it," Cairo said. "I'm very disappointed, but I don't make the decisions around here. Whatever they're going to do, they're going to do."

Cairo has been the Rays' top basestealer and one of their more consistent offensive players, with a .276 average and 56 hits in 57 games. His defense has not been as steady as he has made seven errors, two in crucial ninth-inning situations.

"I think I'm doing a pretty good job," Cairo said. "I've made errors, but they've been aggressive errors. The first year I made 16 errors and they didn't say anything."

The uncertainty is enough to raise questions about Cairo's future with the team. He makes $295,000 this season, having had his contract renewed the past two seasons, but will be in line for a large raise next year since he will be eligible for salary arbitration.

"I don't know; we'll have to see what happens," Cairo said. "They're making a lot of changes around here. I don't know. I want to play. You don't make money on the bench."

Smith is the second player added to the roster in the past month who can play second. When the Rays acquired Russ Johnson in a trade from Houston, general manager Chuck LaMar said Johnson eventually could challenge Cairo for the starting job.

Smith, who was a shortstop in Atlanta's minor-league system, played primarily third base during his first two seasons with the Rays but was used in a utility role this spring and switched to second when he was sent to the minor leagues before Opening Day.

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