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With Rays, Gomez finds a perfect fit

By MARC TOPKIN

© St. Petersburg Times,
published July 25, 2001


ANAHEIM, Calif. -- Chris Gomez was looking for an opportunity. Relieved to be released by the Padres on June 22, Gomez signed with the Rays thinking it might be his best chance to get back to the big leagues. He made it after less than a month of Triple-A play, starting at shortstop Tuesday night.

"It's the big leagues, it's where everyone wants to be," Gomez said.

Gomez, 30, was a starting shortstop from 1995-99 with Detroit and San Diego and helped the Padres into the 1998 World Series with a career-best .267 average. But he was hampered by knee problems that required three surgeries over the past two seasons, losing his starting job last season and, despite a $3-million salary, his place on the Padres roster last month.

He didn't have much choice but to go back to the minors.

"It's tough at first, but you realize you're not the first guy who had to do something like this," Gomez said. "It's not like I was playing well enough to have too many complaints. I knew the best thing was for me to go down and get everything straight with my swing and my fielding and play well. I knew that was the best route to get back to the big leagues."

With since-departed Andy Sheets hitting .196 and Felix Martinez .226, the Rays are happy to have him, even more so after a double and a three-run homer in his Rays debut.

"Defense is what we're looking for," manager Hal McRae said, "but I'm almost sure we'll get a little more offense, too."

READY TO ROLL: Paul Wilson was just getting comfortable in the bullpen. Now he's going back into the rotation, starting tonight in place of injured Bryan Rekar.

Whether or not it's a fresh start remains to be seen.

"I like the way I've been throwing the ball right now," Wilson said. "When I was taken out of the rotation I didn't have a whole lot of answers about why I was pitching the way I was. I wasn't getting good extension, I wasn't throwing strikes. Now I'm delivering the ball in better fashion and I'm able to throw better strikes."

Coming out of a stellar spring training, Wilson had the No. 2 spot in the rotation with a chance, in the minds of several team officials, to be No. 1.

But one bad start led to another, and by the end of May, Wilson, who couldn't be sent to the minors without having to be subjected to waivers, was moved to the bullpen with a 2-7 record and 8.43 ERA.

"I'm sure they were concerned about how I was throwing the ball, about how all of a sudden I went from this guy to that guy," Wilson said. "I think they were confused, and so was I, confused and frustrated, trying to figure it out."

Wilson made 13 relief appearances, showing marked improvement recently, especially during a two-inning stint in Atlanta on July 17.

DRAFT BREEZE: Scouting director Dan Jennings expects a proposal today from Bo McKinnis, the adviser to unsigned No. 1 draft pick Dewon Brazelton. "Hopefully we're getting close," Jennings said. ... Pitcher Chris Seddon, the fifth-round draft pick, worked out for team officials before the game. RAYS BITS: The Rays were the first AL team to hold Texas to less than 10 runs in a three-game series this season. ... Reliever Travis Phelps had a bruise after stubbing his left toe on a couch.

Tonight: Rays at Angels, 10:05 p.m.

WHERE: Edison International Field, Anaheim, Calif.

RADIO: WFLA-AM 970, WLCC-AM 760 (Spanish).

The pitchers

PAUL WILSON: Wilson makes his first start since May 31 in place of injured Bryan Rekar. He began the season as the No. 2 starter but went 2-7 with an 8.43 ERA in 12 games. He has made 13 relief appearances since. He lost to the Angels on May 26 at the Trop.

MATT WISE: The 25-year-old right-hander, a sixth-round pick in the 1997 draft, was recalled from Triple A to make tonight's start. He was 7-5 with a 5.51 ERA in 14 starts for Salt Lake. Before being sent down, he was 1-2 with a 5.01 ERA for the Angels.

You don't say

There has been plenty of talk in the Rays clubhouse about possible trades. Though most of the players indulge in the speculation, manager Hal McRae refuses to do so. "Doesn't mean a thing," McRae said. "If and when they're made, or not made, we'll move on. We won't miss a beat no matter what happens."

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