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His status ambiguous, Sorrento stays upbeat

By MARK TOPKIN

© St. Petersburg Times, published March 14, 1999


This wasn't exactly what Paul Sorrento expected when he signed with the Devil Rays.

Having been cast behind Fred McGriff at first base, and now having been officially supplanted at DH by Jose Canseco, Sorrento is competing for work in the outfield, a position he last played regularly in 1986 at Florida State.

If it works, Sorrento is headed toward part-time duty in left and/or rightfield. If it doesn't, well, he doesn't know where he'll end up, or if he'll still be with the Rays.

"What am I going to do, sit and worry? There's nothing I can do about it," Sorrento said. "I enjoy it here. I enjoy being around the guys. If I can play here, great. I don't want (a trade) to happen. If it happens, that's fine too. I'm not going to lose any sleep over it."

The Rays seem to have an excess of outfield/first-base/DH-types with Sorrento, McGriff, Canseco and Bubba Trammell. A trade would help sort things out, and Trammell (who may draw interest from Texas) and Sorrento (who makes a reasonable $3-million) are probably the most tradeable.

"They have to make some moves," Sorrento said. "There's too many guys at too many positions. Whether I'm that guy, there's nothing I can do."

Sorrento is tackling his new assignment with a good attitude. "It's not frustrating, but it's definitely different," he said. "I think I can do as good a job as anybody they have here. I may not get to some balls some other guys can. I feel like I can do the job. If it happens I get my playing time in the outfield, that's the way it's going to be. And that's the way I'm going to look at it."

Sorrento came to the Rays after a strong 1997 season in Seattle (.269, 31 HRs, 80 RBI), but he struggled (.225, 17 HRs, 57 RBI) and lost his DH gig. Still, he says he doesn't regret signing with Tampa Bay.

"I can honestly say I don't," he said. "I'd like to maybe have played a little more first base, something I'm more accustomed to. But that's in a perfect world, and we don't live in a perfect world.

"It is weird (in the outfield), but if that's the way it's going to be then, fine, I'll work hard and try to do the job out there. If it doesn't work out and they trade me, that'd be good too. It's kind of a no-lose situation really."

COME BACK SOON: Bobby Seay is gone and Ryan Rupe is likely to join him soon, but the promising pitching prospects' stay in major-league camp was mutually beneficial. "It's nice to see young arms like that," manager Larry Rothschild said. "One of the things that's always exciting about major-league spring training is that you get to see some of the young arms in the organization, and some of the younger players. And it's fun to look down the road and think what could happen for those guys." Rupe and Seay said the experience was good for them too. "It makes you a little bit more hungry and a little bit more aware of what your goal is," Rupe said. "Being a young player, all you can ask is to try and get them to remember your name."

FOR OPENERS: Rothschild's choice for an Opening Day starter comes down to Wilson Alvarez, the theoretical ace, or Rolando Arrojo, the 14-game winner and All-Star. Alvarez, who started the inaugural opener, said he wouldn't be offended it Arrojo got the nod. "If he puts Rolando in the first game, he deserves it," Alvarez said. "He pitched a lot better than me last year. What can I say? Either way I'll have my chance to pitch every five days." However, the way the rotation is presently set up, Alvarez is on schedule to make the start.

THAT HURTS: The injuries to Quinton McCracken, Randy Winn and Canseco haven't been especially serious, but the result has been painful to the Rays' planned renovations. "We haven't been able to put our team on the field; not because I haven't wanted to, because I have," Rothschild said. "I think everyone's going to like the look of it. When they're all on the same field it's going to be a different look."

BALLGAME ANYONE? Managing general partner Vince Naimoli is personally spreading the word that tickets are still available for the April 9 home opener. "I think it's just awareness," he said. "People just don't know yet."

PARTY TIME: A Saturday fund-raiser at Ferg's Sports Bar & Grill (across from Tropicana Field) will raise funds to send schoolchildren to Rays games. There will be a raffle, music and appearances by Rays players.

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