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Rays shift to silent

By MARC TOPKIN

© St. Petersburg Times, published September 7, 2000


CLEVELAND -- The Devil Rays are more than willing to battle the Red Sox on the field, but they declined Wednesday to be drawn into a war of words.

The day after Boston general manager Dan Duquette called Gerald Williams "a thug" and Pedro Martinez said manager Larry Rothschild made a "stupid" move in ordering the Rays to repeatedly throw at Boston batters during the Aug. 29 game, the Rays opted not to fire back.

"I'm done rehashing that situation," Rothschild said. "The only thing I'll say is that we've done very little talking since it all happened."

Williams was aware of what Duquette said, but had not seen the article in which the comments appeared.

"I haven't seen it and I don't care to," Williams said. "That's not where my focus is. Part of the reason I don't read the papers is that I try to be a professional in every sense and not respond to what people say."

It is highly unusual for a general manager to make derogatory comments about a player on another team.

Williams declined to fire back, but did come close to taking a swipe.

"I don't expect people to have a certain level of professionalism, but I demand it of myself," he said. "If they have it, it's a beautiful thing."

HEARINGS PENDING: No dates have been set for the hearings in which Williams and pitchers Dave Eiland and Tony Fiore will appeal their suspensions to Major League Baseball president Paul Beeston. There is some talk the appeals won't be heard until the Rays are in Toronto on Sept. 22-25. ... Fiore was very appreciative of Greg Vaughn offering to pay the rookie's $1,000 fine. "That was very nice of him, a class act," Fiore said.

MONEY MATTERS: The suspended players will receive their regular salary during their time off. "Based on past practices, we're obligated to pay the players suspended by the commissioner's office for on-field activities," assistant general manager Scott Proefrock said. Some teams previously had withheld pay, but grievances filed on behalf of players were upheld in arbitration, establishing a precedent the Rays will follow.

NOW MANAGING: Bill Russell took over the managing duties as Rothschild began serving his three-game suspension. Russell had a 173-149 record managing the Dodgers for parts of three seasons and led the Rays to two wins when filling in for Rothschild during his previous suspension July 26-27. Rothschild can make out the lineup and participate in pregame work, but said he would "leave the premises" once the game starts.

REKAR REPORT: A spokeswoman for the Illinois attorney's office in Chicago confirmed Wednesday that domestic battery charges against pitcher Bryan Rekar were dismissed Tuesday, essentially because Rekar's wife, Jamie, did not want to go forward with the case.

NEW LOOK LINEUP: Russ Johnson started at shortstop for the first time as a Devil Ray, replacing the slumping Felix Martinez, who is hitting a season-low .215. "I wanted to get a right-handed bat in there," Rothschild said. "Felix has struggled from the right side (hitting .113) and we need all the offense we can get." Johnson made four starts for the Astros at shortstop before his May 27 trade and had appeared in four games there for Tampa Bay. ... Jose Guillen batted ninth for the first time this season.

FEELING STRONG: Esteban Yan appears to be over the shoulder inflammation that has sidelined him for 10 days. Yan has had shoulder problems in the past, but Rothschild said that keeping Yan in the bullpen, as he now plans to do, should alleviate it. Yan spent the first four months of this season in the rotation. "If he stays in a reliever's role he's going to have a better time of it," Rothschild said. "If we get him conditioned that way I think it will be easier for him."

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