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For now, door open for substitute closer

By MIKE READLING and MARC TOPKIN

© St. Petersburg Times,
published June 23, 2001


ST. PETERSBURG -- Esteban Yan landing on the 15-day disabled list Friday means other pitchers are going to see a little more action.

Manager Hal McRae said he would go to a "closer by committee," using three or four pitchers to fill Yan's role to finish games. Because of McRae's lack of confidence in any one pitcher, that list will include Victor Zambrano and Jesus Colome, who were called up from Triple-A Durham on Thursday, and Travis Phelps and Doug Creek.

"I'm going to spread it around and not put a tremendous amount of pressure on one particular guy," McRae said. "They need to show me the way. If they pitch well enough we can pick it up from there. If they struggle, we'll keep turning it over and give other guys the opportunity to play."

Phelps has two saves and is 0-1 with a 4.09 ERA and Creek is 1-1 with a 3.34 ERA, but don't look for either to threaten Yan's job.

"I don't think anyone can emerge because Yan is our closer," McRae said. "But someone can do well enough to play more often than other guys."

WELCOME BACK: Jeff Wallace had plane tickets for his wife and son, packed his belongings and was in bed in his Tierra Verde condo late Thursday when Rays travel director Jeff Ziegler came to the door and told him he may not be going to Triple-A Durham after all.

"I had my phone off because I didn't feel like talking to anybody," Wallace said.

Wallace was unhappy at the original demotion, since he had a 0.93 ERA in 15 appearances. "Hopefully I can make a better impression on them this time," Wallace said.

ESTE OPTIMISTIC: Yan said he didn't want to go on the disabled list, but is confident two weeks of rest will eliminate the tightness in his right shoulder.

"They're going to give me some time," Yan said. "And I think in seven, eight, 10 days I'll be fine."

He said he first noticed the discomfort June 15, the morning after he pitched 11/3 innings against Philadelphia for his eighth save. He didn't pitch again until Thursday, when he felt "a little pinch" on his 29th pitch of the ninth inning. He threw one more pitch and left the game.

Yan has had similar problems before and is hoping taking quick action will help.

He tried to pitch through it in 1999 and suffered a dropoff in velocity before landing on the disabled list for a month.

LEAVE A BAT (OR A GLOVE): As part of the Rays and the National Association of Letter Carriers' baseball equipment drive, St. Petersburg residents can place new or used baseball equipment in a box by their mailbox to be picked up by letter carriers today. All equipment will be donated to the Police Athletic League, the St. Petersburg RBI League, Special Olympics and the Boys and Girls Clubs of St. Petersburg.

QUICK HITS: Friday's announced crowd of 24,718 was the largest since Opening Day. ... The Rays fell to 30 games worse than .500 for the first time since Sept. 27, 1998. ... Albie Lopez lost his ninth decision in a row, the longest streak by an AL pitcher since Jim Parque of the White Sox lost nine in a row in 1999. ... Yankees SS Alfonso Soriano had the first multiwalk game of his career. He entered with nine walks in 268 plate appearances. ... Steve Cox's last five hits have been for extra bases (two doubles, three home runs). ... Fred McGriff is day-to-day with a strained hamstring.

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