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Martinez returns to his spot at short

By KEVIN KELLY

© St. Petersburg Times,
published June 16, 2001


MIAMI -- Felix Martinez, as expected, was activated from the 15-day disabled list Friday.

The shortstop, who had tendinitis in his left knee, played five, seven and nine innings during a three-game rehab stint with Double-A Orlando. He went 1-for-10, with one error in the field.

"I have to play defense," said Martinez, who leads the team with 12 errors. "I've got to play good to play like I did before, the same as I did before every day."

Manager Hal McRae plans to start Martinez today, then replace him with Andy Sheets, who has started 24 of 27 games since coming to the Rays on May 16.

"He (Martinez) thinks he's going to be better," McRae said. "I hope he's correct."

TIME WILL TELL: Brian Rekar picked up his first victory of the season this week, so McRae is optimistic Albie Lopez can end his losing steak.

The right-hander, who's been bothered by thumb and groin injuries, has lost seven decisions in a row and lasted 51/3 innings in his last appearance against the Mets on Saturday. He allowed 8 runs, 10 hits and struck out 4.

"I'm not concerned," McRae said. "I think he just needs to throw a strong seven innings and get his foot in the door. I thought the last two times out he threw the ball like he can."

Lopez is 2-0 with a 6.51 ERA in three games against the Marlins. He is 6-2 with a 4.40 ERA in 23 interleague games.

HOME BASE: Except for his mom and sister, Aubrey Huff didn't have a large cheering section for his first professional game in south Florida.

"Everybody that I know is in Omaha to play in the World Series," said Huff, who played at Miami until he was drafted in 1998. "The fans that I know are there."

The Hurricanes play Stanford today in the College World Series title game. Huff played in the CWS in 1996, 1997 and 1998).

"It was really a lot of fun," Huff said.

ROOM TO MOVE: The Rays' recent success, six wins in eight games before Friday, has allowed McRae a little more freedom on the bench.

"There was a time when it became like a necessity to create something, to do something, to manufacture something," he said. "In the last three or four days I've gotten the feel to let them play, let them swing the bats and we'll score some runs.

"I think they're playing extremely well for a week to 10 days. The results seem like the tide is turning. They're winning a few games now. But we have to continue to win games."

ODDS AND ENDS: The Rays signed third-round (79th overall) draft pick Christopher Flinn. The right-handed pitcher was 23-13 with 327 strikeouts in 3031/3 innings in three years at SUNY Stony Brook. Catcher Brent Cordell, the Rays' 23rd pick from Consumnes River College in Nevada, also signed. Tampa Bay has signed 15 of 50 picks. ... Juan Guzman threw 63 pitches in five innings of work during a simulated game Thursday at the Naimoli Complex in St. Petersburg. Guzman is recovering from rotator cuff surgery.

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