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For Martinez, centerfield might be right position

By MARC TOPKIN, JOHN ROMANO

© St. Petersburg Times, published March 15, 1999


ST. PETERSBURG -- Dave Martinez may find himself the center of attention this season.

The Rays used Martinez almost exclusively in rightfield last season, but they are playing the 34-year-old veteran in centerfield this spring and likely will do so during the regular season.

"I like to get the guys in spots in spring training where they can get some versatility," manager Larry Rothschild said. "Davey's played centerfield a lot in the past and we didn't get to use him there last year. I'd like to see him out there and see what he can do.

"From his point of view having been out there, if I have to make a move during the season he'll be able to go out there with a pretty easy transition."

Martinez played centerfield extensively early in his career and says he enjoys the challenge of covering more ground. "Actually, that's my favorite position," he said.

Martinez is a very good defensive outfielder, perhaps the best on the team. He is expected to spend most of his time in rightfield, particularly if Randy Winn and Quinton McCracken remain on the roster.

"It's hard to tell right now, but it wouldn't surprise me if that worked out best for us to win games if at some point Davey did play some center," Rothschild said. "It's going to depend on how the roster is made up."

McCracken has been out all spring with strained ligaments in his right knee. He is said to making good progress in his rehabilitation and could begin playing next week. Rothschild said he thinks there's "a pretty good chance" McCracken will be ready on Opening Day.

Winn came into camp essentially having to win the starting centerfield job in order to make the team. He has been out since suffering a strain quadriceps March 7 but says he could be back as soon as tonight.

"Randy is a young guy trying to make the team," Rothschild said. "It's unfortunate that that happened right now, but there's still time for him. He's going to play."

PITCHING IN: The postponement of Sunday's game caused a slight ripple in the pitching plans. Scheduled starter Julio Santana was bumped to tonight's game at Lakeland, and Terrell Wade was moved into a relief role.

Bobby Witt still is scheduled to start today's home game against Toronto, with Jason Johnson behind him. Wilson Alvarez will start Tuesday against Philadelphia, followed by rookie Ryan Rupe.

"The starters will stay in line, but we're going to manipulate the relievers a little bit," pitching coach Rick Williams said. "One day (of rain) is not a major disruption, but some innings might get cut back."

ARROJO BETTER: RHP Rolando Arrojo, sidelined several days with a sore back, threw off the mound for about five minutes and showed marked improvement. "He was okay," Rothschild said. "He's not completely past it, but it was a big step to get on the mound today. He was almost pain-free." Arrojo is tentatively scheduled to pitch Thursday.

WALKING WOUNDED: DH Jose Canseco, out a week with a sore right hip, is expected to play in today's home game with Toronto. . . . RHP Bryan Rekar showed some improvement from the sore back that sidelined him Friday and could be back on the mound in a few days.

THAT'S THE TICKET: Fans holding tickets for Sunday's rained out game have three options:

Receive a refund, exchange the ticket for an equal value seat at another spring training game at Al Lang Field, or exchange the ticket for an equal value seat at a regular-season game at Tropicana Field.

If you are seeking a refund and purchased your ticket at a Ticketmaster outlet, you must return to the place of purchase. If it was purchased over the phone through Ticketmaster, call (727) 898-7297 or (813) 282-7297 for further instructions.

If you have season tickets or purchased your tickets at Tropicana Field or Al Lang Field and are seeking a refund, you must mail the tickets to Tropicana Field, ATTN: Season Tickets, P.O. Box 15758, St. Petersburg, FL 33733-5758. A refund check will be mailed to you.

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