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Rothschild chalks it up to experience

By MARC TOPKIN

© St. Petersburg Times, published September 18, 2000


ST. PETERSBURG -- It is, when you think about it, a little like comparing storm damage or train wrecks. But, sitting on the bench an hour before Saturday's game, manager Larry Rothschild admitted, wearily, that the recent stretch has been the toughest in the Devil Rays' three years.

Worse than anything in the inaugural first season, including the 11-game midseason losing streak or the 1-8 finish. Worse than anything in the disappointing 1999 season, including the dizzying 2-16 skid that coincided with traumatic season-ending injuries to Quinton McCracken and Tony Saunders.

"This is the toughest," Rothschild said, his team having lost seven straight and 13 of 15 September games.

Rothschild talked about how the injuries to the pitching staff have "almost been insurmountable." About how a rugged schedule "didn't make it any easier" to regroup or reorganize the pitching staff. About how "for the most part" the players' effort has still been there, but also that "when you're getting your a-- kicked it doesn't look good."

Basically, Rothschild said, it's about the polar opposite of what was expected at the start of the season of grand promise.

And it hurts.

"Right away you're hit with multiple injuries, things like that. Then you get things together for three months and it happens all over again," Rothschild said. "In your third year you always look at the growth. Now you have to look at it and kind of picture what the growth can be if things happened in a more normal situation.

"So you look at it that way and it's discouraging that we are where we are right now. It's frustrating."

For now, Rothschild is signed to manage for one more year. He says his contract status is not an element in his frustration -- "I put no bearing on that," he said. "When I come to the park I come with the same purpose every day, whether it's the last day of the season or the first day." -- but it can't be a comfortable situation.

There apparently won't be an in-season contract extension, as there was last September, since general manager Chuck LaMar said he plans to wait until early October to review the entire major-league staff.

Meanwhile, Rothschild can only sit and wonder as he reads and hears the rumors and speculation that Seattle's Lou Piniella, one of his friends and former bosses, could he taking over the Rays next season. (And won't that make for awkward pregame conversation when the teams open a three-game series tonight at Tropicana Field?)

Given a lack of attractive alternatives, Rothschild is trying to somehow turn the myriad negatives of this season into something of a positive.

"For me, as a manager, this has been a year that I've probably learned more about myself than I will in any year I manage or coach or whatever, just because of what we've gone through and the perspective you have to have," Rothschild said.

"It's not going to get any rougher than this. You tend to learn more about yourself. I think for me this has been as good a learning experience as I'll ever have. ... When you go through the rough times, there's a perspective that you have to keep. Every year you can sit back and say you have to do this and that, but when you go through it, it becomes a little bit easier to say "bull----.' But yet when you step back from it you realize that is the right way to do things. ... I've confronted more situations this year than I will if I manage 10 more years. That's a learning experience."

The old saying is that adversity builds character. Rothschild will testify to that point.

"I don't think there's any question about it, and I've had enough adversity before this year that I felt I could handle it," Rothschild said. "This year has just kind of reinforced everything."

-- Staff writer Bruce Lowitt contributed to this report.

Gordon 1, Rays 0

Sunday's game was postponed because of Hurricane Gordon. It would be made up Oct. 2 if it impacts the playoff race. Fans who had tickets for Sunday's game can exchange them for tickets to any of the remaining home games. There are no refunds. The bat day promotion has been rescheduled for Oct. 1.

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