By KEVIN KELLY
© St. Petersburg Times,
published August 11, 2001
ST. PETERSBURG -- Esteban Yan is still a ways from evolving into the closer manager Hal McRae thinks he can be.
"This is his first year," McRae said. "So the experience is what he's lacking."
Yan, who began the 2000 season in the starting rotation before moving to the bullpen, blew his seventh save of the season Thursday. He allowed four runs in the last two innings against the Yankees for his second blown save in eight days.
"His stuff is good enough, but he needs to continue to go out and pitch in those situations to become the reliable guy," McRae said. "You just don't throw him out there and take off."
McRae doesn't believe in sharing the closer role, even if Yan's struggles continue, because of the sense of doubt it can create among the relievers.
"If you go back and forth, in the long run, you're really setting yourself back," he said. "At some point you hope to have a reliable man."
SOME ADVICE: Rays coach Lee May met with Aubrey Huff to discuss the first baseman's throwing error on a slow grounder by the Yankees' Paul O'Neill in the ninth Thursday.
Huff fielded the ball and threw to second in an attempt to start a double play. The ball hit Tino Martinez in the head and kept the inning alive.
"(May) said when you're playing behind the runner, that run doesn't mean anything," Huff said. "You just want to get an out there, especially on a ball hit slow like that."
The error helped the Yankees score three in the inning and take a 4-3 lead. "It's just something I've got to learn from," Huff said. "It's very hard. I had a rough night. I sat there thinking about it the whole night. But it's over and you've got to go on with it."
CROWDED ROTATION: Though Jason Standridge pitched well in his first major-league start Thursday, the Rays' starting rotation will remain unchanged until Bryan Rekar is ready to come off the disabled list.
Rekar will make his second rehab start for Double-A Orlando on Tuesday and is at least 10 days from returning.
Standridge, who pitched 61/3 scoreless inning against the Yankees, will relieve and could get his next start in September. Wilson Alvarez and Juan Guzman also will pitch when they're activated.
MODEL CLUB: Tampa Bay's payroll at the beginning of the season ($56-million) was more than double that of the Twins now ($27-million). Yet it's Minnesota that leads the AL Central.
The Twins, who had lost 84 or more games in six of the past seven seasons before this year, are considered a model for constructing a contender through player development and on a shoestring budget.
"It would be nice if we were to go that way," McRae said. "We're going young and they're young. What we have the tendency to forget is how many years they've taken their lumps.
"You can (succeed) if you develop some players which I think we're in the process of doing now. You can do it without a big payroll and without a lot of power."
ODDS AND ENDS: Guzman will pitch for Triple-A Durham on Sunday and Alvarez will start for the Bulls on Monday. ... Autograph Saturday has been canceled. Steve Cox, Damian Rolls and Russ Johnson will have a question and answer and autograph session at 10:30 a.m. at the Trop. Brent Abernathy will sign autographs at Walker Ford from 10:30 a.m.-noon and Jason Tyner will sign at Kash n' Karry on Bruce B. Downs Boulevard in Tampa from 10 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. ... Ben Grieve's single in the fifth inning broke an 0-for-16 slump.