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Huff learns lesson: Just relax, baby

By MARC TOPKIN

© St. Petersburg Times,
published September 5, 2001


SEATTLE -- Aubrey Huff said he learned something during his 12-day exile to the minors that should greatly help his performance in the big leagues.

And it has nothing to do with adjustments to his batting stroke or the way he fields ground balls.

"I realized when I was down there I'm a totally different player down there mentally-wise than I am up here," Huff said Tuesday.

"I went down there and I was so relaxed. Up here I was putting way too much stress in myself, trying to do too much. I'm just going to bring that Triple-A attitude up here."

Huff and pitcher Jason Standridge rejoined the Rays on Tuesday, the only planned September additions to the roster. Triple-A manager Bill Evers was added as an extra coach.

Standridge spent 10 days with Double-A Orlando, making two starts, and said he was happy to be back.

"When you come back here you have so much appreciation for where you are ad you realize what an honor it is to be here," Standridge said. "It's a humbling experience all over again."

BORDERS PATROL: Pat Borders loved playing the past two seasons in Durham, N.C., with the Rays Triple-A team. He loved the weather, the stadium, the family atmosphere.

But Tuesday he made it back to the major leagues with the playoff-bound Mariners. And that was even better.

"It's the place you want to be," Borders said. "I enjoy playing everywhere, but this is the ultimate."

After finishing the 1999 season with Toronto, the 38-year-old Lake Wales product signed with the Rays, figuring that at the least he could spend spring training at home and the summer in a place his six children could see him play.

The Rays welcomed him, as much for the experience he could pass on to their young pitchers and catchers as for his ability.

"I knew they had Toby Hall and they wanted me to work with him," Borders said. "I didn't think I had any chance of going back with them because he deservingly should be in Tampa playing."

IF YOU WERE WONDERING: Manager Hal McRae intentionally walked batting leader Ichiro Suzuki in the ninth Monday, but he had reasons for having Esteban Yan pitch to him with the winning run on second and first base open in the 11th inning.

He didn't want No. 3 hitter Bret Boone batting with the game on the line. "I wasn't going back to Boone, not that way," McRae said. "I wasn't walking my way back to him."

Boone never batted. Suzuki reached on an infield single and Stan Javier knocked in the winning run with an infield bouncer.

ON THE MARK: Paul Wilson has had an up-and-down season, but he is making a push to finish on a high. Wilson's seven-inning outing Monday was his second straight solid start against Seattle, an impressive 14 innings of work with one run allowed to the best team in the majors. Over his past seven starts, he has lost once.

"I've had this potential all along, that's kind of the frustrating thing about it," Wilson said. "That didn't show the first time around in the first half. I always felt this is the pitcher I'm capable of being, but what am I going to do about it? The first half is done. At least I can show (McRae) that the good is going to far outweigh the bad. He's seen a lot of bad."

Tonight Rays at Mariners, 10:05

WHERE: Safeco Field, Seattle.

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

BY THE NUMBERS vs. East: 17-40

vs. Central: 13-19

vs. West: 9-22

vs. NL: 10-8

vs. RH starters: 38-70

vs. LH starters: 11-19

On grass: 15-41

On turf: 34-48

In day games: 21-31

At night: 28-58

One-run games: 16-14

Two-run games: 10-16

Extra innings: 4-3

Scoring first: 36-26

Scoring four or more: 44-36

Scoring fewer than four: 5-53

INFORMATION: 1-888-FAN-RAYS.

The pitchers

RYAN RUPE: Rupe and the Mariners are not a good mix. He is 0-4 with a 6.99 ERA in five starts, including a June 2 game at Safeco Field when he allowed the first seven hitters to reach. The next homer he allows will be his team-record 27th.

AARON SELE: Sele, on the other hand, loves to face the Rays, posting a 6-0 record and 3.70 ERA in six starts. The 31-year-old right-hander has followed a 17-win season with a 13-5 record and 3.49 ERA. He has been vulnerable to the long ball, allowing 23 home runs.

You don't say

Triple-A manager Bill Evers joined the team as an extra coach Tuesday, and there weren't a lot of introductions needed as 15 current Rays played for him at Durham this season. "It's his team out there," manager Hal McRae said. "Everyone out there he managed and sent to us."

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