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Ashleys add to their lineup

By JOHN ROMANO

© St. Petersburg Times, published March 19, 1999


FORT MYERS -- When he called his wife in California after Monday night's game, Billy Ashley had good news to report. After struggling with a groin injury, the outfielder/DH finally had gotten in the lineup and had three hits, including a home run.

When his wife called back an hour later, she had better news.

She was heading to the hospital to deliver their second child.

"It was 2o'clock in the morning and she called and said, "Guess where I'm at?' I said, "No way, I just talked to you an hour ago,' " Ashley said. "What a day."

Sophia Rae Ashley was born early Tuesday, and her dad hopes he can fly home to see her this weekend, perhaps tying in the trip with Monday's off-day.

Ashley said he had hoped to be home for the birth, but after missing much of the first two weeks with the groin pull, he didn't think he could take more time off.

"It was a sacrifice to stay here, but I was going to be getting some at-bats, and I felt I needed to get the work in," Ashley said.

"My wife and I talked about it, and we felt it was the best thing for me to do."

Ashley, a minor-league free agent, has made the most of his time in the lineup this week. Along with the three hits against the Tigers on Monday night, he had a pair of run-scoring singles against his former Boston teammates in Thursday's 7-1 victory.

"When you're trying to make a team, you want to play injured, but you know if you're playing injured, you're not 100 percent," Ashley said. "And then things happen, and it just makes it all worse.

"I finally feel now like I'm getting in a groove."

BACK IN ACTION: RolandoArrojo's sore back survived the mound. Now the Rays want to make sure it survives a night's rest.

Tampa Bay's ace right-hander pitched three scoreless innings in his first exhibition game appearance. Arrojo had not pitched in 10 days after he woke up with a sore back following a B-game performance in Bradenton.

"He looked fine," manager Larry Rothschild said. "He was in more three-ball counts than usual, but he threw the ball well.

"(Today) is an important day to make sure his back is okay because that's when it acted up last time. But he seems okay."

RUNNING WILD: Kevin Stocker has made a pledge to steal more bases this season, and he appears to be serious about it. In 19 at-bats this spring, the Rays shortstop has stolen five bases.

Stocker averaged 16 stolen bases in his first four years in the minors, but he was not in a position to steal much as the No. 8 hitter in Philadelphia from 1993-98.

"I used to steal bases all of the time coming up through the minor leagues. Then hitting in the eight hole, I just didn't do it, and I lost my aggressiveness," Stocker said. "I don't have super-fast speed, and if you lose a little aggressiveness and start getting bad jumps, it's hard.

"I told myself this year I'd be more aggressive and work on my jumps, and I feel that a lot more now. I'm reading it right like I used to."

TAKING IT EASY: OF Randy Winn, playing back-to-back days for the first time since injuring his right quadriceps muscle 12 days ago, had a single and a walk in three at-bats, raising his average to .428. Winn left the game in the fifth after scoring from first on a Dave Martinez double.

"I felt it a little when I came around to score, but it's nothing," Winn said. "Just a precautionary thing."

FUNERAL SERVICES SET: Rothschild will miss Saturday's game at Al Lang Field against the Phillies to attend the funeral of Rays chief financial officer RayNaimoli in Arlington, Va.

Naimoli, brother of managing general partner Vince Naimoli, died Sunday morning. In lieu of flowers, the family has requested donations be made to the American Cancer Society, 121 Park St. SE, Vienna, VA 22180.

FIRST STRING: Tampa Bay's lineup for today's game against the Yankees could be an Opening Day preview. The anticipated starters at every position will be playing, except for OF Quinton McCracken, who is recovering from a sprained knee.

Many veterans were out of the lineup the past two days on road trips to Winter Haven and Fort Myers. With a day off coming up Monday and the end of spring nearing, Rothschild said it's time for more regular work.

"We're at that point where we need to start getting ready to play," he said. "And I like these guys to play a lot before the off-day because that gives them a nice break, and they need to play leading up to that."

Fans at today's game at Al Lang will receive a First Union schedule magnet.

LEGENDARY: Hall of Famers Brooks Robinson and Ferguson Jenkins, actor Mark Harmon and the sons of Roger Maris headline the roster for the Legends of Baseball Game on April 10 at Al Lang Field. The game, hosted by the Major League Baseball Players Alumni Association, is at 2:30 p.m. and concludes the Festival of Baseball weekend. Tickets are available through Ticketmaster. The weekend's events also include a charity golf classic and a memorabilia and card show at Tyrone Square Mall. (Legends Game roster, 15C).

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