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Gomez, Rays look to extend relationship

By MARC TOPKIN, Times wires

© St. Petersburg Times,
published September 11, 2001


Chris Gomez was looking for a place to re-establish himself as an everyday player. The Rays were looking for a shortstop to solidify their infield.

They hooked up seven weeks ago, and the relationship has been a good one.

Good enough that general manager Chuck LaMar expects to talk soon with Gomez's agent about a contract for next season.

"Chris has done a fine job," LaMar said. "It's been a good fit for him to get a chance to play every day at the major-league level and it's been a good fit for us."

Gomez, 30, was released in June by the Padres, who apparently didn't want to wait any longer for him to recover from knee surgeries that limited him the previous two seasons. The Padres also acquired shortstop D'Angelo Jimenez from the Yankees.

He spent a month at Triple A and has been a solid performer for the Rays since being called up July 24.

Gomez plays steady defense, making the routine plays, and has provided unexpected production, hitting .308 with seven homers (second-most on the team) and 23 RBI in 41 games.

"Offensively obviously I feel like I found a few things and things have been clicking for me and I look forward to continuing that," Gomez said. "Defensively, I can do a little better. I'm disappointed in my defense, but it's not something I'm worried about. Sometimes you can go into slumps defensively as quickly as you can offensively."

Gomez, making $3-million in the final season of a three-year deal, is a West coast guy, but said he enjoys playing for the Rays and would like to stick around for a few years.

The Rays don't have top-notch shortstops at the top end of their minor-league system, so it probably makes sense for them to pursue a deal, especially before Gomez becomes a free agent at the end of the season.

The key factors may be how much the Rays want to pay and how long of a contract Gomez wants.

There doesn't seem to any doubt that he'll be playing somewhere. "Hopefully I've re-established myself, but I don't know. We'll see come the offseason," Gomez said. "I'd love to be back here. I don't know what's going to happen."

WINN-WINN SITUATION: Randy Winn is not known for having a strong arm, yet he ranks fourth among AL outfielders with 11 assists. The results, manager Hal McRae said, are product of the circumstances. "He's charging the ball and the coaches are not stopping the runners," McRae said. "He's done a good job."

SHUFFLED DECK: The Rays are using six starters, but not always in order. The tentative schedule for the rest of the season has Tanyon Sturtze pitching on a normal schedule and the others filling in.

The current plan: Sturtze, Paul Wilson and Ryan Rupe face the Red Sox this week; Bryan Rekar, Nick Bierbrodt, Joe Kennedy and Sturtze face the Yankees this weekend; Wilson, Rupe and Rekar pitch at Boston Sept. 18-20; Bierbrodt, Kennedy and Sturtze pitch at Toronto Sept. 21-23; Wilson and Bierbrodt pitch at New York Sept. 25-26; and Rupe, Sturtze, Kennedy and Wilson pitch the final series at home.

FLASH REPORT: Catcher John Flaherty was expected to have an MRI exam Monday to determine the cause of the "pinching sensation" his neck. The Rays expect to know more about his status today.

PLANS CHANGE: Thanks to a rain out at Yankee Stadium on Monday, the Red Sox's pitching plans for today were adjusted. Casey Fossum had been scheduled to pitch against the Yankees but he will go today, bumping Frank Castillo.

RAYS BITS: The Rays are 3-9 in their current 22-game stretch against the contending Mariners, A's, Red Sox and Yankees. ... Three of the Rays' past six games have gone extra innings.

Today: Red Sox at Rays, 7:15

WHERE: Tropicana Field

TV/RADIO: Fox Sports Net/WFLA-AM 970, WLCC-AM 760 (Spanish).

TODAY'S PROMOTION: Upper general admission tickets can be purchased for $3 with a coupon from the Tampa Tribune.

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

INFO: 1-888-FAN-RAYS.

BY THE NUMBERS:

vs. East: 17-40

vs. Central: 13-19

vs. West: 10-26

vs. NL: 10-8

The pitchers

TANYON STURTZE: After beginning the year in middle relief, Sturtze (8-11, 4.51) has developed into the Rays' most dependable and successful starter. He has won four of his past seven for a team that can't win four of 10. The Rays are 8-4 in his past 12 starts.

FRANK CASTILLO: The journeyman righthander is having an average year, going 8-8 with a 4.37 ERA. He isn't overpowering (with 74 strikeouts in 113 1/3 innings) nor dominating (having allowed 150 baserunners), but is effective.

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