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Former top pick set for surgery

Josh Hamilton's minor-league season to end after right knee injury. He hopes to play in the Arizona Fall League.

By BRUCE LOWITT

© St. Petersburg Times, published August 5, 2000


ST. PETERSBURG -- Outfielder Josh Hamilton, the No. 1 pick in the 1999 draft, will have surgery Monday to repair a knee injury he sustained Monday during a Charleston RiverDogs game.

Hamilton tore the lateral meniscus in his right knee. The operation is expected to sideline Hamilton for six weeks. If his recovery goes as planned, he may be sent to the Arizona Fall League.

Hamilton finished his season with the Class-A RiverDogs with a .301 average in 96 games, with 13 home runs and 61 RBI.

Earlier this year he was the Class A South Atlantic All-Star Game's Most Valuable Player after going 2-for-6 with two triples and two runs scored.

And at age 19, just 13 months out of high school, he was selected to go to the major-league All-Star Game: to play in the Futures Game that showcased future stars from throughout the minor leagues.

Within a week of being drafted, Hamilton signed a contract that included what the team described as the highest signing bonus given to a drafted player. Though the Rays would not discuss specifics, the deal is believed to be worth about $3.95-million and include an invitation to spring training.

"We want to treat him like the first player in the country and we did," general manager Chuck LaMar said then.

FIRST START: Tanyon Sturtze will make his first start for the Devil Rays, six nights after getting his first Tampa Bay win.

Sturtze, who came to the Rays on May 31 from Chicago in a trade that sent infielder Tony Graffanino to the White Sox, pitched one inning of relief Sunday at Kansas City and got the win when the Rays beat the Royals 7-6 in 10 innings.

He got his only National League win with the Cubs in 1996, beating the Reds, and his first American League win with the White Sox in 1997, beating the Red Sox at Fenway Park in front of many family members from his Worcester, Mass., hometown.

"My mother has the American League win and my dad has the National League win," he said. Sturtze also had a chance to win Oct. 3, leaving the game with a 1-0 lead after six innings of shutout, four-hit ball. "It was the last game of the season, everyone had 4 o'clock flights and it was an afternoon game so both sides just agreed to call it a 1-1 tie."

Sturtze has made 24 appearances this season, 14 for the Rays. On July 4 he tied a Rays record for longest stint by a reliever with 52/3 innings of three-hit, one-run ball in an 11-0 victory by Detroit.

Manager Larry Rothschild said Sturtze "has been extended out and everything else. I don't know that there's a huge adjustment for him (in changing from a reliever to a starter). He's started enough games to know what routine he has to go with, and I think his arm is built up enough."

TWO OTHER FIRSTS: Besides rookie Travis Harper's rocky major-league debut as the Devil Rays starter Friday, two other Rays had firsts.

Third baseman Aubrey Huff, in his third major-league game, got his first hit, a single to left that loaded tbe bases with nobody out in the second inning. He was wiped out on the front end of Felix Martinez's double-play grounder as the Rays scored their first run.

Paul Wilson, acquired in the trade that sent reliever Rick White and outfielder Bubba Trammell to the Mets, made his first major-league pitch since Sept. 26, 1996, against Houston, when he was being touted as one of New York's young crop of phenoms. Friday marked his first appearance as a major-league reliever.

He was dominating, pitching 32/3 no-hit innings, walking two and striking out four.

In 1995 he had led all minor-league pitchers with 194 strikeouts in 1862/3 innings. But during the next three seasons he had a series of operations on his right shoulder, and last year he sat out the season recuperating from "Tommy John surgery," repairing the medial collateral ligament of his right elbow.

MORE NEXT TIME: Tony Saunders, who pitched two innings Wednesday for Charleston in his comeback from a fractured left arm, threw on the Tropicana Field sideline before Friday's game.

Rothschild said it went well and he expected Saunders to pitch three or four innings Monday, probably at Charleston but possibly for the St. Petersburg Devil Rays.

APPROACHING REHAB: Infielder Bobby Smith's recovery from a sprained right knee is progressing well, Rothschild said. "He's doing fine. The side-to-side stuff is where we have to make sure he's okay. ...

"He needs a few more days of what we're doing. As long as he stays healthy, he'll at one point go on rehab. Maybe a week or so. He might be back before Sept. 1. He should be back by Sept. 1. If all goes well he will be back by Sept. 1."

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