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Smith planning to be fixture at hot corner

By MARC TOPKIN

© St. Petersburg Times, published February 27, 1999


ST. PETERSBURG -- Two lockers away is Jose Canseco, who likely will take the No. 3 spot in the batting order. In the corner is Wade Boggs, who rightfully is going to grab the spotlight, and perhaps some playing time, as he approaches 3,000 hits.

But, lest you forget, Bobby Smith is still here. And he doesn't plan to sit idly by.

"It's great that we got guys like Canseco and Wade," Smith said. "But I want to play too. ...

"I hope everything works out for everybody. I hope Wade gets his 3,000th hit and Canseco hits 45 homers. But I want to be out there. All of us are not going to be able to get 500, 600 at-bats. Somebody won't be playing every day. I definitely want to play every day."

Smith, 24, has high hopes for his second season at third base. He was strong defensively, making nine errors in 81 starts, and batted .276 with 11 homers and 55 RBI, principally from the No. 3 spot.

Now he wants to "become one of the best third baseman in all of baseball, not just the American League." And he figures the best way to improve his offense is to cut down on his strikeouts (110 in 117 games). "I need to make contact more and put the ball in play more," he said.

He knows there is room for improvement. "You continue to learn every year because you're playing with the best in the game," Smith said.

CRACK OF THE BAT: Canseco stepped in for some swings against Julio Santana and Mike Duvall, the first "live" pitching he has faced since last season. "Your hands get sore, but nothing unusual," Canseco said. He didn't hit any homers then, but he did go deep on four consecutive swings against coach Orlando Gomez. Canseco broke four bats, a product of not having his timing down. "That's what you call not hitting them on the meat of the bat," Canseco said. "Anywhere but."

YOU DEVIL: OF Quinton McCracken is looking forward to tonight's Clearwater for Youth awards banquet at the Sheraton Sand Key because he'll share the dais with Florida's Steve Spurrier, his football coach when the two were at Duke. Both have come a long way since -- Spurrier winning a national title at Florida, McCracken earning a starting job in the major leagues. "I owe him a great deal," said McCracken, a defensive back for the Blue Devils. "He made playing both sports very easy on me. I let him know when they were recruiting me that I wanted to play both, and he was a man of his word. A lot of times in Division I you don't have that."

OUCH: Slugger Fred McGriff has hit some home runs that have caused considerable damage. Friday, a batting practice bomb smashed the windshield of RHP Rolando Arrojo's 1999 Mercedes. ... LHP Terrell Wade was the first on-field casualty when he was struck on the left side by a Miguel Cairo line drive. Wade left the mound with a nasty bruise but no other injuries. "I'm fine," he said. ... RHP Jim Mecir was sent home from practice because of the flu. ... OF Randy Winn left the field with a nose bleed.

CHOOSING SIDES: Triple-A manager Bill Evers and rookie-league skipper Bobby Ramos will be the managers for Sunday's noon intrasquad game.

PHOTO OP: Several fans at today's workout will be chosen to model Rays merchandise for the team catalog. The shoot starts at 10 a.m.

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