By MIKE READLING
© St. Petersburg Times,
published July 5, 2001
ST. PETERSBURG -- When the Rays traded for Ben Grieve in January, they got a 24-year-old who averaged 24 home runs and 93 RBI during his first three seasons. They envisioned an outfield star who would lead the team offensively.
That was before Grieve got off to the worst start of his career and found himself benched by manager Hal McRae on Wednesday.
Grieve, who is scheduled to make $2.75-million this year and $9-million over the next two years, sat out consecutive games after starting 22 straight. McRae said there was no timetable for Grieve's return.
"The guys that are playing today are the guys that are playing the best," McRae said of outfielders Greg Vaughn, Jason Tyner and Randy Winn. "I don't know how many days they're going to play, but they're the ones playing the best at the present time."
Grieve, who has been moved from rightfield to leftfield to compensate for a below average throwing arm, has eight hits in his past 41 at-bats with 17 strikeouts since three-hit games June 19-20. A 24-for-117 spell has dropped his average from a season-high .271 to .247. He leads the AL with 84 strikeouts.
The power the Rays expected hasn't come, either. Grieve hit one home run during a recent eight-game road trip, and his six through 84 games are the fewest he has had at this point.
FURNITURE FALLOUT: McRae said he had the couches and recliners removed from the Rays clubhouse to create "more of a locker room effect."
McRae added: "It takes some of the casualness out of it. I told them before it had nothing to do with being punished."
McRae said all the players need in a clubhouse is a comfortable chair, some open space, air conditioning and somewhere to shower. He also has restricted the televisions to sporting events and reportedly has cut back on the food available to players.
McRae said teams often juice up their visitor clubhouses in an attempt to lull opponents into a false sense of security.
"It's not because they like you," he said. "Anything you can try to do to gain a competitive edge. It's a trap in a sense."
Several players joked about the sudden disappearance of the three couches and three recliners. Most took the renovation in stride.
"He said he was going to take it out and he took it out," catcher John Flaherty said. "He didn't like it, so it's gone."
Added pitcher Albie Lopez: "I told them they should set up some sit-up mats in here. We can do aerobics now with the space. Or we could put a basketball hoop on each end of the clubhouse."
SWITCHIN' PITCHERS: The Rays will have a new rotation after the All-Star break. Albie Lopez will be the No. 1 starter followed by Joe Kennedy and Bryan Rekar. Tanyon Sturtze will move up to No. 4 and Ryan Rupe will be No. 5.
MINOR MATTERS: Top prospect Josh Hamilton, who reportedly was nearly ready to return to the lineup at Class A Charleston, did not play Wednesday.
RAYS BITS: ESPN2 joined the Rays' game in progress after the conclusion of the rain-delayed Kansas City-Detroit game. ... Second baseman Brent Abernathy is scheduled to make his Tropicana Field debut today. ... Outfielder Jose Guillen shagged fly balls for the first time since injuring his hamstring June 24.
WHERE: Tropicana Field, St. Petersburg.
TV/RADIO: Fox Sports Net; WFLA-AM 970, WLCC-AM 760 (Spanish).
TONIGHT'S PROMOTION: The Rays of Hope Foundation will make a $10,000 donation to the Tampa Housing Authority/Tampa RBI League.
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.
RYAN RUPE: Rupe leads the club with four wins, although his 7.15 ERA is the worst of any starter. In his last outing, he left with a 4-3 lead after giving up back-to-back homers to the Yankees only to have the bullpen lose it. He is 1-0 lifetime vs. Toronto with a 4.86 ERA.
JOEY HAMILTON: Hamilton is 3-6 with a 5.61 ERA in 17 starts. He has given up more runs (68) than he has strikeouts (66) and opponents carry a .340 average. Against the Rays this season, Hamilton is 1-0 with a 1.64 ERA. He has given up 12 hits in 11 innings with six strikeouts.
Greg Vaughn may have been the Rays' top All-Star vote-getter, but that doesn't mean he was out stuffing ballot boxes in order to earn the trip to Seattle.
"I've never even filled out an All-Star ballot. I don't think I've ever even seen an All-Star ballot," Vaughn said. "But, if you want to call my mom, she's probably filled out a lot of them."
WEDNESDAY'S CROWD: 13,119.
TROPICANA FIELD CAPACITY: 44,445.
SEASON TOTAL: 651,381.
PER-GAME AVERAGE: 15,509.
2001 LARGEST CROWD: 41,546.
2001 SMALLEST CROWD: 10,539.
2000 PER-GAME AVERAGE: 19,368.
1999 PER-GAME AVERAGE: 19,296.
1998 PER-GAME AVERAGE: 30,939.