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Talks with Brazelton are nearing an end

By MARC TOPKIN and BRANT JAMES

© St. Petersburg Times,
published August 22, 2001


ST. PETERSBURG -- Talks continued with top draft pick Dewon Brazelton on Tuesday amid indications that time for a decision is growing near.

"We're optimistic, but we're not trying to kid ourselves or to be foolish in our expectations," Rays chief operating officer John McHale Jr. said Tuesday. "This is an irrational process and we're trying to do what's right for our club and, if we can, what's right for our industry."

Rays general manager Chuck LaMar, who is in Charleston, S.C., and scouting director Dan Jennings, who is in upstate New York, spoke with Brazelton adviser Bo McKinnis on Tuesday. LaMar said only that talks "were continuing" and McKinnis did not return phone messages.

Brazelton, the No. 3 selection, has threatened to return for his senior year at Middle Tennessee State but has delayed going to class to allow negotiations to continue. Once he attends class, the Rays lose the rights to him.

The Rays are believed to have offered Brazelton a major-league contract and a package worth at least $4-million spread over five years.

ALMOST: Had he thrown those two bad pitches in June, Paul Wilson likely would have had another loss.

But the two bad pitches he threw Tuesday night, though hit over the fence by Tony Batista and Larry Bigbie, were just speed bumps on the pleasant avenue the Rays have been traveling lately.

Wilson earned a no-decision after allowing four runs on seven hits in five innings, but the Rays stayed close and earned an 8-4 win over Baltimore that gave them a winning record (15-14) over the past month and their best stretch of the season.

It's enough to take some of the sting off two mistakes.

"Except for those two mistakes, I was pretty happy with how I pitched," Wilson said. "Laying it on the line is the starter's job. We all want to go out and dominate, but that isn't going to happen. Cy Youngs aren't going to do that all the time. We just try to keep the game close."

Wilson (5-8, 6.12 ERA) did, leaving with the score tied at 4.

SHORT WORK: Chris Gomez needed less than a month to tie a record Kevin Stocker needed all of 1998 to set. With his sixth homer in 77 at-bats since being recalled from Triple-A Durham on July 24, Gomez has equaled the club mark for homers by a shortstop.

"Just now I am feeling more aggressive where I'm looking to drive the ball," Gomez said, "not necessarily hit it out of the ballpark, but get the head of the bat out and don't be afraid to hit it in the gap."

Gomez, who entered the season a career .251 hitter, is batting .325 with a .610 slugging percentage and extended his hitting streak to a season-high eight games with two hits.

Gomez, who hit a career-high 11 homers in 1995 with Detroit, said he lost that aggressiveness when he was traded to San Diego in 1996.

"I got to San Diego and I hit a few, but I got away from being aggressive at the plate," he said.

"In San Diego I was more trying to take my base hits to rightfield and I was in a defensive mode from the get-go. It just kind of happened, maybe because I was hitting out of the eight hole."

Gomez batted ninth Tuesday.

AUCTION: The Rays will hold a silent auction at Gate 3 today and Thursday to benefit the Rays of Hope Foundation and the Cal Ripken Sr. Foundation. The club will auction an autographed Cal Ripken bat and ball each night. A signed bat went Tuesday for $2,700, the ball $1,300.

RAYS BITS: The Orioles-Rays series is 27-27 all-time. ... Ben Grieve's hit streak ended at 10 games with an 0-for-3 night. ... The Rays bullpen pitched four scoreless innings and has a 3.12 ERA since the All-Star break.

Tonight: Rays vs. Orioles, 7:15

WHERE: Tropicana Field, St. Petersburg.

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

TONIGHT'S PROMOTION: Fans buying a regular-priced ticket and presenting a coupon printed from the team Web site, www.devilrays.com, receive a ticket of equal value to any game Friday-Sept. 2.

TICKETS: Available at stadium box office; through Ticketmaster phone and retail outlets; at team stores in WestShore Plaza, Brandon TownCenter and BayWalk.

INFO: 1-888-FAN-RAYS.

The pitchers

RYAN RUPE: Rupe has struggled for much of the season, losing five of his past six decisions. He has given up 24 homers, putting him on pace to shatter Esteban Yan's team record of 26. Rupe is 5-4 with a 5.47 ERA against Baltimore.

SIDNEY PONSON: The 24-year-old right-hander is winless since a two-hit shutout at Toronto in June, going 0-4 with a 5.72 ERA during the eight-start span. The native of Aruba is 2-1 with a 2.76 ERA at the Trop.

You don't say

Rays manager Hal McRae wouldn't want to be in third baseman Cal Ripken's shoes all the time: "I played in every game in 1977, but I was a DH, so I can't relate to what he did. It's difficult to play every day with the position he plays. It's more of a mental strain than a physical drain. All I know is it's something I would not wish to do."

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