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Healthy Wilson gets to his primary goal

By MARC TOPKIN

© St. Petersburg Times, published September 25, 2000


TORONTO -- Once again tonight, Paul Wilson will take the mound with special handling. His Devil Rays bosses will watch him closely, likely limiting him to five or six innings, less if he's laboring at all.

There will be a time, next year Wilson hopes, when he'll be treated like everyone else. But that time is not now, not with the chance to put a happy ending on his impressive comeback from April 1999 elbow surgery, a chance to finish a full season healthy for the first time since 1995.

"In reality, there is not much I can say or do," Wilson said. "I realize one or two more starts aren't going to make or break me. I know that they have plans for me next year, and I have plans for next year too."

Wilson spent much of 1997 and 1998 recovering from shoulder surgery, then missed all of last season after blowing out his elbow. He started this season in Class A, and was pitching for the Mets' Triple-A team in July when the Rays traded for him and brought him to the big leagues.

Even though he has not won in nine Tampa Bay outings (five starts), and even though he has struggled in his past three starts, and even though he longs for the opportunity to compete without restrictions, the 27-year-old right-hander does appreciate where he is today.

"I think I accomplished what I wanted to accomplish this year," Wilson said. "I wanted to throw 150 innings this year and I'll do that (he has 1452/3). I wanted to get back to the big leagues, and I've done that. Next year we can talk about winning, talk about putting W's on the board."

MEDICAL REPORT: Shortstop Felix Martinez and outfielder Randy Winn were out of the lineup Sunday and feeling "pretty sore" from their collision on the final play of Saturday's loss. Martinez has a left thigh bruise, and Winn has a sore left shoulder and forearm. Manager Larry Rothschild said "it's a possibility" they could play tonight. ... There was no word by the end of Sunday's game from Greg Vaughn, who left Saturday morning because of a family member's illness. The Rays don't expect him back until Tuesday at the earliest.

RARIN' TO GO: Gerald Williams prides himself on his professionalism and his competitiveness. So having to watch the past three games on the clubhouse television while serving his suspension, which ended Sunday, has been so frustrating, Williams couldn't put it into words. "My frustration does not register properly," he said. "But I do understand why I'm here." ... Tony Fiore was back in the bullpen Sunday, his two-game penance over. Dave Eiland, meanwhile, started his two-game suspension.

HEY, REMEMBER ME?: Steve Trachsel was the seventh former Devil Ray to face his ex-mates. In previous reunions, the Rays had wins against Dennis Springer and Jason Johnson, lost to Rolando Arrojo, Dwight Gooden and Springer, and had no-decisions against Bobby Witt and Mark Guthrie.

BLUE JAY WAY: There were Tampa Bay connections to some Toronto organization awards. Former scouting director Tim Wilken, a Dunedin High graduate and Pinellas County resident, was honored for his work with the Al LaMacchia Award, which is named for the long-time Toronto -- and current Tampa Bay -- scout. Wilken will be promoted to a position that has not been announced. ... Class A Dunedin manager Marty Pevey won the Bobby Mattick award for excellence in player development.

RAYS BITS: Travis Harper's complete game was the Rays' first since Aug. 13. ... The Rays have a team-record eight shutouts. ... Fred McGriff is one RBI shy of his sixth season of 100 or more. ... The Instructional League team, which features a number of the Rays' top young prospects, opens play at 1 p.m. today at the Ray Naimoli training complex in St. Petersburg. Admission is free.

Parallel structure

Fred McGriff has played the same amount of games -- 1,204 -- in each league, having been with San Diego and Atlanta in the NL and Toronto and Tampa Bay in the AL. Here's a look at his stats:

(NL, AL)

Average -- .289 -- .283

Homers -- 214 -- 200

RBI -- 702 -- 589

Runs -- 598 -- 571

Walks -- 528 -- 602

Strikeouts -- 752 -- 836

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