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Rekar set to test back on mound

By MARC TOPKIN

© St. Petersburg Times, published June 24, 2000


ARLINGTON, Texas -- Bryan Rekar's stiff back felt better Friday. Good enough, in fact, that he is scheduled to start tonight against the Rangers.

The Devil Rays on Friday shuffled their pitching rotation back to its original form, deciding to pitch Rekar tonight, Albie Lopez on Sunday and Steve Trachsel on Tuesday at home against Toronto.

Rekar left Sunday's game after four innings with a bad back and wasn't sure how long he would be out. But he was able to play catch Wednesday and Friday with no problems.

"He should be all right if his back holds up," pitching coach Bill Fischer said. "He should be normal unless he falls out of bed or something."

Rekar, who has had back problems in the past, said he was much-improved but not 100 percent. "I feel as good as I can under the circumstances," he said. "I don't know what happened, if I strained it or it spasmed. There's some lingering effect, but I don't think it will hurt me when I'm out there."

Rekar has pitched well this month, going 1-1 with a 2.82 ERA in four starts, and the Rays are 3-1 in those games. He hasn't done as well against the Rangers, going 0-1 in three appearances with an 11.74 ERA.

MAKING TRACKS: The Yankees' search for pitching help could lead them to the Devil Rays. According to CNN/Sports Illustrated, the Yankees have interest in Steve Trachsel and have been scouting the right-hander. "That doesn't mean much," the veteran said. "When I was with the Cubs I was "traded' here four times and "traded' to the Angels five times. And who else? Cincinnati, Cleveland and probably a bunch of others I didn't know about. I'm not going to get all that excited."

CANSECO'S CONUNDRUM: Jose Canseco has this problem. The small, dime-sized injury in his left heel is feeling better. Good enough that he wants to test it by running full speed, the last hurdle before being activated.

But Canseco also is worried that if he goes too hard too soon, he could re-injure himself (as he did during drills on the last homestand) and end up being out for several more weeks.

"There's an urge in me telling me, "Jose, push it, push it, push it so you can get back in the lineup,' and there's a smart little voice in there telling me, "Remember what happened last time. Learn from the experience,' " he said. "So I feel like I'm caught between the two, but I have to listen to experience."

Canseco, out since May 24, took batting practice before Friday's game and jogged lightly but did not run anywhere near full speed. Manager Larry Rothschild has said he wants to see Canseco run freely, then see how he is the next day before activating him.

"From here on in it's going to be one day at a time, to see how much I can build up and do (today) without actually hurting the foot again," Canseco said. "It's a very fine line."

Canseco and Rothschild said Canseco might need just a few more days and could be ready to rejoin the lineup Tuesday. But Canseco said he might wait longer, perhaps until the July 10-12 All-Star break, to make sure he is healed.

MEDICAL MATTERS: Tony Saunders continued his impressive recovery from a broken arm with a 55-pitch batting practice session in St. Petersburg. ... Vinny Castilla is working out there, too, with the possibility he will be activated Thursday. Castilla, out with a sore back, went through a full workouty, and Rothschild said if he felt good today he likely would play in some minor-league games next week. ... Leftfielder Greg Vaughn, out with a strained right hamstring, is on track to be activated Friday. "I'm planning on it," Vaughn said.

RAYS BITS: Fifth-round draft pick Jace Brewer had a smashing pro debut Thursday, going 2-for-5 with three RBI for Class A Charleston. ... Durham third baseman Aubrey Huff and reliever Bill Taylor were named to the International League squad for the Triple-A All-Star Game on July 12. ... Rightfielder Jose Guillen, in a 2-for-17 slump after four strikeouts Wednesday, was out of the lineup.

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