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Hall speeding up timetable

By MIKE READLING

© St. Petersburg Times,
published June 27, 2001


Toby Hall's numbers this season are pretty much in line with what the Rays were expecting.

A .343 average, 16 home runs, 59 RBI. All near about where Hall, a career .301 hitter, was expected to be. ... except the Rays didn't expect to see those numbers until September, when the final statistics were tallied.

That the Durham catcher has compiled those totals before the Triple-A All-Star Game, to which he was unanimously selected, leads many to believe he is primed to assume the full-time catching duties at the major-league level. "Offensively he's the kind of guy who hits in the middle of the order. He's got power, he can drive in runs and he puts the ball in play. He doesn't strike out a lot," Durham manager Bill Evers said. "Defensively he's throwing well, blocking the ball well and he's doing a nice job calling a game."

After Monday's games, Hall led the International League in RBI and hits (93) while ranking second in average, slugging percentage (.598) and home runs. He was tied for third with 21 doubles and has struck out 14 times in 271 at-bats.

Hall, 25, is on pace to post career bests in those categories and already has tied his best homer total. Hall, who batted .343 in 68 games at Orlando last season before being promoted, is hitting .343 after 69 games this season.

Evers said he isn't surprised by his catcher's success, saying he knew this is the kind of season Hall was capable of producing.

"In this game, if you don't have any expectations for anything, you won't be surprised," Evers said. "Overall he's had a very good season and I hope he can continue it."

The matter of whether he continues it at Triple A or with Tampa Bay, which is in a youth movement, is a question sure to be answered soon.

TOE HEATING UP: Toe Nash hit his first professional home run Monday night for Princeton in a 10-6 loss to Bluefield. That home run helped improve Nash's average to .227 with 3 doubles, 2 RBI, 4 walks and 10 strikeouts in 22 at-bats.

In his first pro game, Nash was 0-for-3 (three strikeouts).

MOVING AROUND: Coming into this season, Bobby Smith had played every infield position except first base, and he was named the Rays starting second baseman after spring training.

But after an ineffective start and the rise of second-base prospect Brent Abernathy, Smith has moved to the outfield for the first time with Triple-A Durham.

He was demoted April 9 after hitting .105 and striking out 10 times in 19 at-bats. When he got to Durham, Abernathy was the starting second baseman. Smith started his first game in leftfield soon after.

"It's a chance to get him some at-bats, give him a chance to play and swing the bat and be a part of the lineup," Evers said.

Smith started 30 games in the outfield before being moved second Monday night when Abernathy was called up to Tampa Bay. Meantime, he hit 10 home runs, including seven over a two-week span, and perhaps made himself a little more attractive to the Rays.

"You never know," Evers said. "It depends what the needs are."

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