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Injuries sap much of lineup's wattage

By JOHN ROMANO

© St. Petersburg Times,
published June 24, 2001


ST. PETERSBURG -- You might say Saturday night's Tampa Bay lineup lacked a certain quality. And that quality would be power.

Shortly before the game, Greg Vaughn was scratched with an inflamed tendon near the bottom of his left foot. With Fred McGriff already sitting with a tender hamstring, the Rays were lacking a home run threat.

The starting lineup had combined for 19 home runs, fewer than half as many as Barry Bonds.

Vaughn was in the lineup at designated hitter but was scratched after batting practice. He banged the foot against the wall Friday while trying to run down an eighth-inning double.

"It was pretty sore yesterday, so I taped it between innings," Vaughn said. "This morning it got a little stiff and puffy. But it shouldn't be too long. Hopefully I'll wake up (today) and be ready to go."

HAMSTRUNG: For the second day in a row, McGriff was limited to pinch-hitting duty because of the tender left hamstring. Hal McRae said McGriff might return to the lineup today as the designated hitter, but the manager wants to avoid the possibility of further injury.

Steve Cox, meanwhile, has gotten rare back-to-back starts in place of McGriff. McRae said Cox has a future as an everyday player, but he is limited in Tampa Bay because he is behind McGriff and Vaughn.

"The team composition doesn't give me any leeway with Cox," McRae said. "There is no wiggle room out there."

KEEPING IT IN-HOUSE: If he were bothered by the criticism from pitcher Albie Lopez, McRae did not let it show. After Friday night's loss, Lopez said Rays starters are under too much pressure to pitch eight innings or more because the bullpen has been unable to keep games close. When asked if he attributed Lopez's comments to frustration or if he were bothered by it, McRae grinned and replied, "No comment."

GETTING CLOSE: Because he is pitching a rehab game at Triple-A Pawtucket on Monday, Wilson Alvarez will accompany the Rays on the charter flight to Boston tonight. Because he expects to be activated soon afterward, Alvarez is packing enough clothes for the eight-day road trip.

"Hopefully one more (minor-league start) and I'll be back here," Alvarez said. "My velocity is coming back. I was up to 90 mph the last time."

Alvarez, who had shoulder surgery 13 months ago, has made three starts at Double A and Triple A, going 2-1 with a 1.69 ERA in 16 innings.

IT DIDN'T RAIN THAT HARD: The Rays fielded several phone calls Saturday from fans wondering if the game would be played.

Saturday's game was delayed by mother nature, although not by the rain. Umpires held up Rays starter Joe Kennedy while waiting for Yankees third base coach Willie Randolph to tend to nature's call in the clubhouse. Umpires finally shouted for someone to get in the coaching box, so Don Zimmer ran out of the dugout. Before Zimmer could get settled, Randolph, um, relieved him.

UNDER PRESSURE: The Rays faced Pedro Martinez, Mike Mussina and Roger Clemens in consecutive games. Randy Winn was the only player to get hits against all three.

IN DEMAND: Minor-league field coordinator Tom Foley has been mentioned as a potential candidate for the general manager's job in Pittsburgh. The Pirates are seeking a replacement for Cam Bonifay, who was fired last week, and the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported that Foley could be on a list of candidates. Foley was a candidate for an assistant general manager's job with the Marlins, but he declined to pursue it.

Chasing history

The expansion 1962 Mets finished with the most losses in modern baseball history (since 1900). A look at how this year's Rays, at their current winning percentage, project against the worst losers of all-time:

(Team,Lg.,W,L,Pct.)

NYM/1962*,NL, 40, 120, .250

PHI/1916,AL, 36, 117, .235

BOS/1935,NL, 38, 115, .248

TB/2001,AL, 47, 115, .290

WAS/1904,AL, 38, 113, .252

NYM/1965,NL, 50, 112, .309

PIT/1952,NL, 42, 112, .273

*-expansion team

Today: Yankees at Rays, 1:15

WHERE: Tropicana Field, St. Petersburg.

TV/RADIO: Ch. 10; WFLA-AM 970, WLCC-AM 760 (Spanish).

PROMOTIONS: The first 7,500 fans 14 and younger receive a Slam n' Scream Rays ball. Children will be allowed to run the bases after the game and play catch with parents on the field before. With a coupon from the Times, fans can buy a lower deck outfield ticket, hot dog and Pepsi for $12 or an upper deck general admission ticket for $3.

TICKETS: Available at the Tropicana Field box office, Ticketmaster outlets and Devil Rays Dugout stores at WestShore Plaza and the Brandon TownCenter; or by phone at (727) 898-RAYS in (813) 282-RAYS.

The pitchers

BRYAN REKAR: Rekar (1-8, 5.15) has pitched well against the Yankees but has little to show for it. In seven appearances, six starts, Rekar has a 3.34 ERA vs. New York but is 1-4. In his last start, against the Red Sox on Tuesday, he gave up four runs in seven innings.

TED LILLY: Theodore Roosevelt Lilly, a 25-year-old lefty, is coming off a wild outing against the Mets last week: 8 walks, 7 strikeouts, 3 wild pitches, 2 runs, 1 hit and a no-decision after 115 pitches in 5 1/3 innings. The Yankees are 7-3 in his starts.

Outta leftfield

For a chief operating officer, John McHale Jr. makes a pretty good leftfielder. The Rays executive was in his suite Saturday when a foul ball came screaming past, struck the wall of the suite and came back to McHale, who made a clean catch. He then tossed the ball to a fan. When reporters offered mock applause next door in the press box, McHale waved it off, saying it didn't count because he got it on the rebound.

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