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Vaughn goes home after family illness

By MARC TOPKIN

© St. Petersburg Times, published September 24, 2000


TORONTO -- Greg Vaughn left the team because of a family member's illness and likely won't play again until Tuesday at the earliest.

Vaughn notified Devil Rays officials of the situation late Friday and flew to his Sacramento, Calif.-area home early Saturday.

"I haven't talked to him to see when he'll return, but I wouldn't expect he'd be back for this series at all," manager Larry Rothschild said.

The Rays declined to say who in Vaughn's family was ill or what the problem was. Vaughn is married with two children.

His absence further dilutes a lineup struggling to score runs. Vaughn leads the team with 28 homers and a .364 on-base percentage, is second with 26 doubles, and third with 73 RBI. He has driven in 30 game-tying or go-ahead runs, most on the team.

The Rays are also without centerfielder Gerald Williams, who will miss his third straight game today to complete his suspension. Pitcher Tony Fiore completed his two-game suspension Saturday and Dave Eiland starts his today.

FAMILIAR FACES: Steve Trachsel spent four months pitching for the Devil Rays. Today, he'll pitch against them, hoping to keep Toronto's post-season hopes alive.

Trachsel was 6-10 with a 4.58 ERA for the Rays before being traded with left-hander reliever Mark Guthrie in a July 31 salary-dumping deal for second-base prospect Brent Abernathy, who is a starter on the U.S. Olympic team.

Trachsel has made nine starts for the Jays, going 2-3 with a 5.00 ERA. "It's definitely been fun," Trachsel said. "I've been throwing the ball real good."

He didn't want to talk about facing the Rays, though he did note there are a number of different faces in the Tampa Bay lineup than when he was there. "I had to watch their game the other day just to see who they had," he said.

Said Rothschild: "We should be familiar with him. We've seen him enough."

Guthrie, who retired two of the three batters he faced Saturday, has pitched in 20 games since the trade, going 0-2 with a 4.02 ERA. He was 1-1 with a 4.50 ERA in 34 games for the Rays.

The Jays also have former Tampa Bay outfielder Dave Martinez, whom they acquired from Texas. Martinez is hitting .353 with two homers and 21 RBI in 39 games for the Jays.

OFFENSIVE EXPLOSION: There was some good news in Saturday's game. By scoring six runs, the Rays snapped a brutal stretch of offensive inefficiency. They had gone 16 games without scoring more than four in a game and 29 without exceeding five, matching the longest such streak in nearly 30 years. The 1980 Padres also went 29 games without scoring more than five runs. Beyond that, you have to go back to the 1971 Phillies, who went 40 games without topping a five-spot.

POST-SEASON IMPLICATIONS: Oakland's success at Seattle this weekend seems to increase the chances that the hurricane-postponed A's-Rays game will have to be played Oct. 2 to clarify the playoff situation. If so, Cory Lidle would be in line to start for the Rays. "I haven't thought ahead that far, but I'd imagine (Lidle would start)," Rothschild said. "I doubt I'd bring anybody back on short rest, but I'd have them in the bullpen."

NEWS FROM MEXICO: Pablo Ortega, who threw the first pitch in the Rays' first minor-league game in 1996, was named MVP of the Mexican League playoffs after leading the Mexico City Tigers to the championship. Ortega, 23, went 2-0 with a 0.93 ERA in the five-game playoffs, 11-3 with a 4.34 ERA during the season. The Rays have an affiliation with the Tigers and assign players there every year.

RAYS BITS: Pitcher Tanyon Sturtze, out a month with a strained oblique muscle, said he felt good after throwing at the Rays training complex on Saturday and could be activated this week. ... When Toby Hall started Friday, it was just the second of 477 Tampa Bay games that John Flaherty or Mike DiFelice weren't behind the plate. Tim Laker started on May 31, 1998. ... Fred McGriff will receive his Florida Sports Award Jasper MVP on Tuesday. ... Ozzie Timmons has homers in two of his three starts.

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