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Not just playing out string

Rays such as starting pitcher Bryan Rekar get opportunities to work on details in game situations.

By MARC TOPKIN

© St. Petersburg Times, published September 14, 2000


ANAHEIM, Calif. -- Even in the wretched final weeks of this abysmal season, there are things left to prove.

For Bryan Rekar, the chance is there to finally firmly establish himself as a legitimate big-league starting pitcher. But his performance in Tuesday's 5-2 loss to Anaheim indicates there still may be some work to be done.

Rekar cruised through the first four innings without allowing a hit and took a 2-1 lead into the seventh, having thrown only 77 pitches to that point, when things got out of hand.

He gave up a one-out single, a two-out single and then a two-run triple, and the Angels seized on it to squeeze in another run, quickly taking a 4-2 lead.

Rekar declined to discuss the game with reporters, so there was no way to know if he was tired or if he lost focus. Manager Larry Rothschild and catcher Mike DiFelice both said it can be a case of mind over matter at that stage of a game.

"You get to a point where you're cruising along with four shutout, no-hit innings and they get a run and you get to the seventh and you've kind of got to make up your mind on what you want to do," DiFelice said. "You want to know the game's yours and that you're in control of it."

Said Rothschild: "You've got to be able to get through that seventh inning and into the eighth when you're having that type of game if you're going to win the game. It's a close game, it's right there before you, there's three or four outs to get."

Offensively, the Rays continued their slumber. Greg Vaughn hit a two-run home run in the second inning, his 27th of the season, but after that the Rays got only one runner to second base. It was the 20th time in 29 games the Rays have scored three or fewer runs.

Of minor consolation, at least they drew a walk. It had been more than 45 innings (spread over four complete games and parts of two others) since the last one, the longest such stretch among major-league teams in more than eight years.

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