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McRae: Cox will stay in lineup

By MARC TOPKIN

© St. Petersburg Times,
published July 3, 2001


NEW YORK -- The Rays don't know when Fred McGriff's left hamstring will improve enough for him to return to first base. It could be tonight, it could be this week, it could be after the All-Star break.

But when it does, don't expect Steve Cox to head back to the bench. More likely, Cox is going to the outfield.

"Cox is probably going to play someplace," manager Hal McRae said.

Idled for much of the past two months as McRae used other combinations, Cox apparently hit his way into the lineup while starting 11 straight games while McGriff has been out or limited to DH. Cox has gone 14-for-43 with five multi-hit games in his past nine. Ten of his past 18 hits have been for extra bases.

"When Freddie comes back to play first, whenever that is, if Cox is swinging the bat like he is now, he'll play someplace," McRae said.

Cox, who also could get time at DH, started the first seven games of season, then 15 of 64.

STARRY-EYED: AL (and Yankees) manager Joe Torre said Greg Vaughn or McGriff will be named to the All-Star team Wednesday, but that's about all he would say on the subject.

Both players are worthy, but Vaughn may have the edge if for no other reason than the number of first basemen around the league having solid years. "(First base) is very tough," Torre said.

Vaughn, who is planning to head to his Sacramento, Calif., home, said he would be honored to be selected. "If I'm picked, I'll go," he said. "If not, I'll go home."

McGriff, slowed by the sore hamstring, was noncommittal. "I've got to be healthy," he said.

Asked if he would rather go to Seattle for the game or rest at his Tampa home, McGriff only smiled: "Nobody knows."

HEADS UP: Travis Phelps was doing what he was supposed to be doing, playing catch in leftfield during the Yankees batting practice, when he got struck on the side of the head by a ball.

"I went down, but it didn't knock me out," Phelps said. "It just kind of stung me."

Phelps has a huge swollen welt between his left ear and eye, but X-rays and a CAT scan at a nearby hospital showed no other damage. "It could have been a lot worse," Phelps said.

STREAKING: Albie Lopez pitched very well through six innings, allowing two hits, but crumbled in the seventh and ended up losing his 10th straight game. That's the longest streak in a single season in the American League in more than five years, since Jim Abbott lost 11 in a row during the 1996 season. Jose Lima lost 13 straight for Houston last season.

REHAB REPORT: Juan Guzman, recovering from June 2000 shoulder surgery, came through his first rehab start with no problems and will pitch on a regular five-day rotation, trainer Jamie Reed said.

MINOR MATTERS: Mickey Callaway threw a complete game shutout for Triple-A Durham on Sunday, his first in 114 pro starts. Callaway is 7-3 with a 2.68 ERA. ... Toby Hall had more than one hit in 30 of the Bulls' first 75 games. ... Outfielder Derrick Gibson was released.

RAYS BITS: The Rays were swept for the eighth time this season. It was the fourth four-game sweep in their history, third by the Yankees. ... The Rays have scored two runs or fewer 28 times in 82 games. They are 1-27. ... Brent Abernathy set a team record with hits in the first eight games of his career. ... Active and retired military personnel, with ID, can purchase outfield tickets, regularly $14, for $5 for Wednesday's game. ... The Rays are 34 games under .500, two shy of their record low.

Tonight: Blue Jays at Rays, 7:15

WHERE: Tropicana Field, St. Petersburg.

TV/RADIO: Ch. 32; 970 WFLA-AM, 760 WLCC-AM (Spanish).

TONIGHT'S PROMOTION: Upper general admission tickets, normally $8, can be purchased for $3 with a coupon from the Tampa Tribune.

TICKETS: Available at stadium box office; through Ticketmaster phone and retail outlets; and at team stores in WestShore Plaza, Brandon Town Center and BayWalk.

INFO: Call 1-888-FAN-RAYS.

The pitchers

JOE KENNEDY: This will be an important test for Kennedy: the first time he has faced a team for the second time. The rookie left-hander (2-1, 4.23) beat the Jays in his big-league debut June 6. He won his next time out but has a loss and two no-decisions since.

CHRIS MICHALAK: The Rays released Michalak off their Durham roster early last season, but he has found a home with the Jays and has been their second-best starter behind Chris Carpenter, going 5-5 with a 3.69 ERA. He lost to the Rays on June 6 in a matchup with Kennedy.

You don't say

Luis Sojo, according to the Yankees media guide, is only 35. It just seems as if he has been around forever. So when he again got the big hit for the Yankees, a two-run single in the seventh inning, manager Joe Torre couldn't resist poking a little fun at him. "He's remarkable," the 60-year-old Torre said. "I have his bubblegum card from when I was a young kid."

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