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Pitchers get to work outside for stamina

By MARC TOPKIN

© St. Petersburg Times,
published July 4, 2001


ST. PETERSBURG -- Manager Hal McRae wants to see his pitchers sweat.

To make sure the pitchers don't wilt in the summer heat, McRae is sending them outside for their conditioning work. The program started Tuesday, with starters and relievers not scheduled to work that night doing their pregame running and throwing at Florida Power Park.

"It's to get them out in the heat," McRae said. "We've got to play in the heat, and I think it's better for them. We play in ideal conditions here, but when we go on the road we have to play in the heat."

During the recent steamy road trip to Boston and New York, no Tampa Bay starter made it through the seventh inning, and several seemed to lose effectiveness quickly in the middle innings.

As something of a tradeoff, the pitchers no longer have to shag balls during batting practice, getting them off their feet.

The pitchers left the Trop in a van and returned at the end of batting practice, several dripping with sweat.

"It felt like spring training," Albie Lopez said. "But I guess the pitchers are the only ones that need to do things in the heat. That's the way I look at it. I guess we're the only ones getting tired."

The "get-tough" approach might be expanded. After a brief closed-door meeting, there was talk among the players that the couches and recliners are going to be removed from the clubhouse, perhaps as soon as today, and that television selections are going to be limited.

ALL-STAR ADDITION: The only Rays player to finish in the top 10 for his position in the All-Star voting was first baseman Fred McGriff, who was 10th. Greg Vaughn, 26th among AL outfielders, was the Rays' leading vote-getter with 145,351. The nine Rays on the ballot (including since-departed Vinny Castilla and Gerald Williams) received 749,107 votes combined, 2.6-million fewer than leading vote-getter Ichiro Suzuki of Seattle. ... Vaughn or McGriff will be named as a reserve today.

HIT MAN: Brent Abernathy has hits in his first eight games. Since 1990, only four players have done better. Boston's Shea Hillenbrand and Anaheim's David Eckstein hit in their first nine this season, Ryan McGuire hit in 12 for Montreal in 1997 and Juan Pierre hit in 16 for Colorado last season.

GENEROUS MOVE: The Rays of Hope Foundation presented a $10,000 check to representatives of the St. Petersburg branch of the Reviving Baseball in the Inner Cities program. The team charitable foundation will make a similar donation Thursday to the Tampa RBI group.

HAMILTON MAY PLAY! Top prospect Josh Hamilton, recovering from a strained left quad muscle, could be in the lineup for Class A Charleston tonight. Hamilton missed more than seven weeks at Double-A Orlando with back problems, played June 21 for Charleston and has been out since.

RAYS BITS: The Rays matched the AL record with 58 losses at the All-Star break, tying the 1961 A's and 1996 Tigers. The major-league record is 66, by the 1962 Mets. ... Today's game will be shown by ESPN2. ... McRae plans to try Damian Rolls in the outfield soon. ... Esteban Yan will test his sore shoulder Thursday for Orlando; he is eligible to come off the DL on Saturday. ... The Rays are 0-3 on previous July 4ths and have been outscored 25-3.

Today: Blue Jays at Rays, 4:15

WHERE: Tropicana Field, St. Petersburg.

TV/RADIO: ESPN2; 970 WFLA-AM, 760 WLCC-AM (Spanish).

TONIGHT'S PROMOTION: With a coupon printed from the team Web site (www.devilrays.com), $23 lower reserved seats are $10 and $14 outfield seats are $7. Also, active and retired military personnel with ID can purchase $14 outfield tickets for $5.

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

BRYAN REKAR: Rekar has pitched better than his 1-9 record and 5.25 ERA indicate but not well enough to win. The second-lowest run support in the league, 3.01 per nine innings, hasn't helped. Rekar is 1-1 with a 2.92 ERA against the Jays, his lowest ERA against an AL foe.

STEVE PARRIS: Parris (3-5, 4.87) hasn't allowed more than four earned runs in a game since his second start and has allowed two or fewer in each of his past four. He has struggled in two starts against the Rays, allowing 18 hits and seven earned runs in 72/3 innings.

You don't say

A reporter asked manager Hal McRae if there was anything besides winning he wanted to accomplish in the week leading up to the All-Star break. He said there was not. "When you say wins," McRae said, "you've said it all."

Attendance report

TUESDAY'S CROWD: 13,789.

TROPICANA FIELD CAPACITY: 44,445.

SEASON TOTAL: 638,263.

PER-GAME AVERAGE: 15,567.

2001 LARGEST CROWD: 41,546.

2001 SMALLEST CROWD: 11,056.

2000 PER-GAME AVERAGE: 19,368.

1999 PER-GAME AVERAGE: 19,296.

1998 PER-GAME AVERAGE: 30,939.

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