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Spring straining: Players get loose during a workout at the spring training
complex in St. Petersburg. Workouts continue today and are open to the
(Times photo: Brian Baer)

Boggs: No rush to retire


©St. Petersburg Times, published February 18, 1998

ST. PETERSBURG -- Wade Boggs may be coming home to end his career with the Devil Rays, but don't get the idea he's in a hurry to finish.

The 39-year-old third baseman arrived for his first day of spring training Tuesday, saying his health never has been better. While tweaking his former boss Yankees manager Joe Torre, Boggs said he expects to play 145-150 games.

"I don't think it's going to be any different than when I was with (former Yankees manager Buck) Showalter. Taking one day off a week or what have you. It's not going to be the scenario I was under last year, I can assure you that," Boggs said. "Healthiest I've ever been in my career and I'm sitting on the bench. That's great."

Platooning with Charlie Hayes in New York in 1997, Boggs started fewer than 100 games and had a career-low 103 hits.

The Tampa native is 200 hits away from 3,000 but said he is focused well beyond that milestone.

"The game still comes fairly easy to me," Boggs said. "I've never really put a timetable on how long I'm going to play. As an athlete you want to make sure that you continue playing on that same high level and make sure that you don't embarrass yourself. As long as you can do that, then you keep playing."

PARTLY CLOUDY: Water-logged fields forced the team to hold batting practice and pitching workouts in the indoor facility, although several groups of players were able to get outside for various exercises.

"It's nice to see the sun again," manager Larry Rothschild said. "It's better than being stuck inside."

GET IN LINE: Add Brooks Kieschnick to the growing list of players hoping to compete for the starting job in leftfield.

Kieschnick, 25, had brief stints with the Cubs the past two seasons, hitting .235 with five homers in 119 at-bats.

"I never got a whole lot of at-bats in Chicago. It's tough to show somebody what you can do when you feel like a yo-yo going back and forth," he said. "It'd be tough on anybody when you're not playing much and you feel like you need a hit every at-bat or you're going back down."

Mike Kelly, Bubba Trammell, Rich Butler and Kieschnick are among the candidates for the final opening in the outfield.

TESTING THE JOB MARKET: Former Blue Jays 3B Kelly Gruber visited with Rays GM Chuck LaMar to talk about a possible coaching position.

Gruber, 35, last played in the big leagues with California in 1993. He attempted a comeback last year with Baltimore but retired while in Triple A.

"I'd like to be involved in the game somehow," said Gruber, who was a two-time All-Star with the Blue Jays. "I have two kids living (with their mother) in Sarasota, so I'd love to work here with the Devil Rays."

LaMar said he would keep Gruber in mind for future minor-league coaching positions.

CENTER OF ATTENTION: It seems like everyone already has penciled Quinton McCracken in as the starting centerfielder. Everyone except McCracken.

The first position player taken in the expansion draft arrived for spring training and said he will prepare the same way he did the past couple of seasons when he was Colorado's fourth outfielder.

"I'm taking nothing for granted," McCracken said. "It's nice to be given the opportunity to play every day, but I'm going to continue with my usual method of preparing. Hopefully it will work out that I do the things everyone is expecting of me."

RAYS WRAPUP: The team plans on playing an intra-squad game at the spring training complex on Feb. 25. ... Other players arriving Tuesday were Kelly, Jerome Walton and Robert Smith. Position players not already in camp are supposed to check in today. Their physicals will be Thursday and they're scheduled for their first official workout Friday. ... While the club has expressed interest in Cuban free agent Orlando Hernandez, it is not expected to tender an offer any time soon. ... Before the workout, players were fitted for uniforms.


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