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Mecir, White leave Rays needing relief

By MARC TOPKIN

© St. Petersburg Times, published July 29, 2000


KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Jim Mecir and Rick White were middle relievers, but trading them leaves major holes in the Devil Rays bullpen.

White was the all-purpose man out of the bullpen, and his 711/3 innings were the most of any major-league reliever. Mecir offered consistency in the seventh and eighth innings, and led the American League in stranding inherited runners.

Though White was replaced on the roster by Paul Wilson, acquired Friday from the Mets, the Rays must make a roster move before tonight's game to fill Mecir's spot. The promotion of Billy Taylor from Durham is among the possibilities.

Filling the relievers' spots on the roster is one thing. Taking their place is another matter.

"It's going to be a challenge, no question," manager Larry Rothschild said. "It's like with the injuries. Some guys will get a chance to step up, and you never know what happens."

The Rays would appear to have two in-house options for late-inning work. Tanyon Sturtze, who has pitched much better after a rough start following his acquisition from the White Sox, could move from long relief to set-up work.

Another possibility, given that Wilson is a starter, would be to move Esteban Yan back into the bullpen. "That's something we'd have to think about, but coming off his last start, you hesitate to do that," Rothschild said. "We'll just have to sit down and think about it."

Replacing White will be particularly difficult.

"You can't put into words what that guy has done for us the last couple years -- middle relief, starting, setting up, the ability to close games," catcher John Flaherty said. "We have to find a way to cover the innings as effectively as he did."

"In the first half, with the job he did, he was our MVP, regardless of what anybody else says," closer Roberto Hernandez said.

General manager Chuck LaMar spoke equally highly of Mecir. "To be very candid, we think Jim Mecir is the finest eighth-inning pitcher in major-league baseball," LaMar said. "Not only does he have outstanding ability, but he has been and always will be one of the finest competitors you want to see."

ALL LEFT: Like most left-handed hitters, Fred McGriff has done better against right-handed pitchers than lefties during most of his 14-year career. This season, McGriff is doing something right against left-handers.

McGriff is hitting .296 against left-handers and .280 against righties. He had seven homers and 30 RBI in 108 at-bats against lefties; 12 and 45 in 268 at-bats against righties.

The big difference? Absolutely nothing, McGriff said. "Same routine, same approach," he said. "I don't even look at it. I'm not into the numbers. I just try to get a hit every time up. Hitting's too tough to think about any of that stuff."

FAMILIAR FACE: Former Tarpon Springs High star Kris Wilson made his big-league debut for the Royals, allowing two hits and two walks over two shutout innings. Wilson, 23, was promoted from Double-A Wichita in the afternoon. "It was a rush, and I let my nerves get to me," he said. "Hopefully, my legs won't shake as much the next time out."

G-MAN: Not many people would have taken Gerald Williams in a spring training pool to name the team's second-best run producer. But there he is, second on the team to McGriff with 69 RBI after Friday's game. "It would be nice if he had that many RBI and he was third or fourth or fifth," Rothschild said.

MEDICAL REPORT: Dave Eiland, out since late May with a hip injury, is scheduled to pitch three innings for Class A St. Petersburg on Sunday. ... Tony Saunders went through several days of fielding drills with no problems and will throw a bullpen session today in St. Petersburg. Saunders, who broke his left arm in May 1999, is hoping to pitch in a minor-league game next week, but Rothschild said nothing has been scheduled.

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