By ROGER MILLS, MARC TOPKIN
© St. Petersburg Times, published July 29, 1999
ST. PETERSBURG -- Entering Wednesday night's game, Wade Boggs had four hits in his past 10 games.
But just when doubters began to think the veteran was feeling a nervous pinch in his chase to 3,000 hits, he came up with a vintage performance.
Boggs smacked hits No. 2,990, 2,991 and 2,992. The effort moved him ahead of Tony Gwynn into 22nd place all-time.
Gwynn was 1-for-3 through five innings in a late game at San Diego and had 2,991 hits. "Whew, it's good to get the monkey off my back," said Boggs, who also had three hits April 23 against Seattle. "I had my son (Brett) come in today and pick out a bat for me and that made the difference."
Caught up in the emotion of the chase, Boggs said he vividly remembered the day he got his first hit against Richard Dotson on April 26, 1982 at Comiskey Park.
"I got back to the dugout and was sitting next to Jerry Remy and he said, "Hey kid, you only have 2,999 to go.' And that sort of stuck in the back of mine," Boggs said. "I know it was a kind of humorous remark but it's sort of come to fruition."
With eight hits to go, Boggs said he is well-prepared for the media scrutiny that is sure to follow, and he stressed that he is going to enjoy every minute of it.
"Right now, the excitement level is overflowing," he said. "I'm enjoying the ride. ... This is a blast. This is what you play your entire career for, to get to a spot where something you do means something."
And is he concerned about being too conservative between now and hit No. 3,000?
"You can't wrap yourself up in cotton when you play this game, you have to play it with intensity and with everything you've got."
SLIGHT PROBLEM: 1B Fred McGriff lined a shot down the third-base line in the eighth inning and slid feet-first for the double, but he had to leave the game.
McGriff sustained a mild strain to the left quadriceps and is listed as day-to-day.
"With these types of injuries we'll know more about it (today)," trainer Jamie Reed said. "He's got full range of motion but a little soreness. He'll be okay in a few days."
INJURY UPDATE: 2B Miguel Cairo was out of the lineup again, although he and manager Larry Rothschild said he could be used in emergency situations. "He ran a little bit today, but that's the best news right now," Rothschild said. "I would have liked to have seen better improvement than that." Cairo is out with a sore left hamstring and is expected in for treatment early today. The Rays will evaluate his availability on the road trip. Without further improvement, the Rays could put him back on the disabled list. ... LHP Wilson Alvarez's improvement appears to be steady but slow. He is expected to throw today and is eligible to come off the DL on Monday.
STILL TALKING: GM Chuck LaMar has spent much of the past two days on the phone with other GMs, but he says it won't be until today or Friday that talks will get specific on potential trades in advance of Saturday's deadline. "We've shared a lot of ideas but we're not to the point with any ballclub of, "We'll take these players for this veteran.' It's not that specific," LaMar said Wednesday. There is believed to be interest in a number of Tampa Bay players, including RHP Rolando Arrojo, McGriff and OF Dave Martinez. Overall, LaMar said he expects "quite a bit of activity" throughout baseball.
RAYS BITS: The Rays released C Jesse Levis from Triple-A Durham. He was hitting .330 with one home run and eight RBI in 27 games. Levis had a contract stipulation that made him a free agent if he wasn't recalled by July 15. ... Ed Baird, a native of Tampa Bay and the skipper of the New York Yatch Club/Young America Challenge for America's Cup 2000, threw out the first pitch. ... INF Aaron Ledesma's single in the seventh snapped an 0-for-16 skid. ... Bucs GM Rich McKay and second-year guard Todd Washington were at the Trop.