Tampa Bay Times from St. Petersburg, Florida on February 14, 1999 · 57
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Tampa Bay Times from St. Petersburg, Florida · 57

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St. Petersburg, Florida
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Sunday, February 14, 1999
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57
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16c TIMES SUNDAY, FEBRUARY 14, 1999 BASEBALL TST. PETERSBURG errell Wade got back to the major leagues last season, capping a 15-month comeback from elbow and shoulder injuries with two late-September starts. Now he's ready to get back to business. Wade had a promising career with the pitching-rich Braves before he was injured and left available in the expansion draft, and he is more than ready to regain the same position with the Rays. The 26-year-old lefty figures to be one of the key players in what should be a heated battle for the Nos. 4 and 5 spots in the rotation. Last week he got an endorsement from manager Larry Rothschild. "The fourth and fifth starter spots are going to be interesting," Rothschild said. 'Terrell's healthy, it looks like, and as long as he stays healthy, he's obviously got the leg up on one of them." Wade would love to be in the rotation but says he wouldn't squawk about a relief role. "I'm not picky," he said. When a player has been out as long as Wade has, and worked as hard to get back as Wade did, he just wants to get in the game. "The biggest reward for me would be to be on the Opening Day roster," Wade said. Vhe main thing for me now is to stay healthy all year and help the team win." Wade is looking good and throwing well. Making it back by the end of last season was an important accomplishment era, Wsm s haarahiy mentally and physically, but now he wants more. "Everything feels great," he said. "I'm ready for everything. I've got to keep go-ing. WHITE OUT: Matt White has the contractual right to attend major-league spring training again, but the Rays' top prospect won't be there. Coming off an inconsistent season (8-11, 4.73 ERA at Class A Charleston and St Petersburg), White and team officials decided he would be better off reporting to minor-league camp. "I didn't want to come because it was in my contract," said White, 20. "I want to come because I earned my way. What I did last summer, I don't deserve to come here. I'm going to make it next year so they don't have a choice." . . . Bobby Seay, the top left-handed prospect, will attend major-league camp. He was injured last spring and didn't get to pitch, and this will give the major-league coaches a chance to see him. MOVING ON UP: The Rays spent more than $2-million upgrading their spring training complex. The improvements include a 5,000-square-foot weight room, a video room and four outdoor batting cages. "Our baseball operations people felt it was not up to major-league standards," managing general partner Vince Naimoli said. "We not only brought it up to major-league standards, but we've made it comparable to the best training facilities around." AD MAN: The season-ticket base fell from 21,000 to about 14,000, but the Rays hope their aggressive promotional and advertising campaign will allow them to surpass 1998's overall attendance of 2.5-million. "I think this can be the first expansion club in history to draw better in its second year than its first," sales and marketing VP Mike Veeck said. "That's what a lot of advertising and silliness can do for you." . . , Naimoli was asked about the merits of the approximately $2.5-million campaign versus spending that money on, say, a .240-hitting infield-er. "You need the people to come out and watch the .240 hitters you've got," he said. NUMBERS GAME RHP Bobby Witt and C Joe Oliver signed deals worth a reported $350,000, plus incentives, if they make the team. LHP Norm Charlton signed for a reported $300,000. ... The Rays went into the weekend with 18 unsigned players. One of the more interesting situations involves Rolando Arrojo. He won a team-high 14 games last season, but under the team salary structure for a second-year player, he is probably looking at a relatively meager raise, from $170,000 to around $250,000. Arrojo did, however, receive a $7-million signing bonus. H00-RAYS: Discussions continue with Disney officials about moving the Double-A Orlando Rays to the Wide World of Sports Complex. . . . RHP Wilson Heredia, who pitched briefly in the majors with Texas and spent 1998 in the Yankees farm system, signed a minor-league contract . . . Sport- J Zl MARC TOPKIN BASEBALL sChannel will show a special from the team FanFest at 10 a.m. today. WHERE THERE'S A WIL . . . : The Indians risked little on Wil Cordero and could stand to benefit greatly. Cordero signed a one-year, non-guaranteed contract for $500,000 and will compete with Richie Sexson at designated hitter. If Cordero looks capable, Cleveland might listen to offers for Sexson as part of a trade for a No. 1 starting pitcher. RESTRAINT OF TRADE: The dumping of Greg Vaughn's contract has San Diego closer Trevor Hoffman wondering. Hoffman supposedly was close to an extension but has since upped his price and asked for a no-trade clause. The Padres do not appear willing. "If they can trade a 50-homer guy, they can trade a 50-save guy," Hoffman said. THE LAST WORD: "The truth is, I wanted to come down (earlier) to get ready for this. I saw the list of the ballplayers that were going to be here. You know, my job isn't always the most fun in the world." - President Clinton, speaking at Hank Aaron's 65th birthday party. Information from staff writer John Romano and other news organizations was used in this report AREA SPRING SITES n m I (Horizon Legends park, Field j V ML King Blvd. J p Tampa 5 Hillsborough I "aVond J Tampa Bay Blvd. Times art NEW YORK YANKEES WHERE: Legends Field at One Stein-brenner Drive. The Yankees will remain at Legends throughout the spring. WHEN: Pitchers and catchers report Wednesday for physicals. The first workout is 10 a.m. Thursday. The full squad reports for workouts on Feb. 23. WHATT0 LOOK FOR: A repeat of last spring. The world champions kept their roster virtually intact. Ricky Ledee, Shane Spencer and Chad Curtis will battle to replace Tim Raines in left. j Tampa Rd "IP U7 ' ' w r 3. r -Dunedln c Curlew Rd. .Mich.ganAve. I Engktttrt Complex Main St. Times art TORONTO BLUE JAYS WHERE: Englebert Complex at 1700 Solon Ave. The Jays move to Dunedin Stadium when exhibition games begin. WHEN: Pitchers and catchers report Feb. 22 for physicals in the morning and their first workout in the early afternoon. Position players report Feb. 25 for physicals in the morning with a workout in the afternoon. All other workouts are at 9:30 a.m. WHAT TO LOOK FOR: Roger Clemens sightings. Two months after requesting a trade, the Rocket is still around and his teammates might not be happy to hear he doesn't consider them contenders. Cecil Fielder was brought in as a possible replacement for Jose Canseco. Coachman Rd. Clearwater Carpenter i Complex Drew St. Gulf-To-Bay Blvd. Rays fromIC thai bat stays in the lineup (and a bit worried about his defensive ability), likely would be less than enthused about that proposal. 7?- Times photos JONATHAN NEWTON 1 . Signing Canseco fills the Rays' biggest void power. Otherwise, the newcomers with big-league experience are not nearly as exciting Bobby Witt, Norm Charlton, Steve Cooke, Joe Oliver, Billy Ashley, Larry Casian, Steve Ontiveros, Tim Davis, Roger Bailey, Jesse Levis, Mark Hutton. Times art PHILADELPHIA PHILLIES WHERE: Carpenter Field at 651 Old Coachman Road. The Phillies move to Jack Russell Stadium when exhibition games begin. WHEN: Pitchers and catchers report for their first workout at 1 0 a.m. Friday. Position players report on Feb. 24. WHAT TO LOOK FOR: Plenty of new faces. The Phillies have brought in OF Ron Gant, RHP Jeff Brantley, RHP Chad Ogea, LHP Paul Spoljaric and are talking to RHP Orel Hershiser. Still lots of questions surrounding the rotation 'and 2B Marlon Anderson has to prove he's ready for a full-time job. 2. Winn wants a repeat of '98, when he swiped the CF job. The outfield jumble If difficult decisions are indeed, as manager Larry Rothschild says, a sign of improvement, then the Rays must have a pretty good outfield. Because a number of seemingly tough choices must be made. "That's one of the spots where, if you ask me to start analyzing it, you could get 20 different scenarios," Rothschild said. Basically, there are seven returning players, plus Canseco and several outside candidates competing for six or perhaps five spots. There has been considerable speculation about left and right-field, but the key to settling the outfield is who will play center team MVP Quinton McCracken or speedster Randy Winn. If Winn wins, McCracken moves back to left, relegating Canseco to DH duties almost exclusively and making for a crowd in right with displaced DH Paul Sorrento, Dave Martinez and probably one survivor from the group of Bubba Trammell, Mike Kelly and Rich Butler. If McCracken claims center, Canseco can play some in left, perhaps with Sorrento or Butler; the rightfield crowd is thinned a bit; some DH at-bats become available for Sorrento and Wade Boggs, and there probably is room for two players from the Tram-mell-Kelly-Butler group, or non-roster invitees Ashley or Terrell Lowery. Winn then could be sent back to Triple-A Durham to play RAYS SCHEDULE The Rays open spring training Thursday with the first workout for 47 pitchers and catchers at the team training complex (7901 30th Ave. N, St. Petersburg). A major-league high 74 players are expected when the full squad works out for the first time Feb. 23. Practices normally will start at 9:30 a.m. and last 2V2-3 hours. From Feb. 23-March 2, the Rays will have split-squad workouts, with sessions at 9:30 a.m. and 1:15 p.m. The practices, free and open to the public, are often the best places to get autographs and pictures. The team will distribute rosters. Key dates THURSDAY: First workout for pitchers and catchers, 10 a.m. Subsequent days at 9:30, FEB. 23: First full-squad workout, 10 a.m. Subsequent days at 9:30 a.m. and 1 : 15 p.m.. MARCH 3: Team moves to Al Lang Field for start of preseason. MARCH 5: Minor-league camp opens for pitchers and catchers. MARCH 9: Minor-league camp opens for position players. I Englebert I Recreation Complex YT.r-1- 0 ) LLZ Yl: CLEAKWajER ll 'VmT rrpnter Complex) LARG3 SR688 I P' SEMINOLE . g . VrV; f I I f ark Blvd. z z V v H 62nd Ave. N i THEQULf J V-niAvfiJL V- " BEACHES " jh ianiraL Ave. " Yt fl : : A! ' 7 2nd Ave S Ji ' 81 PETEMBUB0V7iT W l ' 7IyA - 22nd )."'" Buech Complex! Times art every day, as could Trammell andor Butler. left-handed reliever. v E 3. A healthy Wade says he is armed and ready to assist in '99. The battle to be 4th, 5th The most intense competition likely will be for the fourth and fifth starter's jobs, with nearly a dozen pitchers in the mix. Rothschild says this is the No. 1 priority of the spring. Though Wilson Alvarez, Rolando Arrojo and Tony Saunders went 26-41 (.388), the other starters were 13-38 (.255). Lefty Terrell Wade and Julio Santana are the top contenders among the returnees. Wade worked back from arm surgery to make two late-season starts and is in good shape. Santana was spectacular during a 10-start stretch in July and August, posting a 3-1 record and 2.21 ERA. But he otherwise was a pedestrian 1-5, 8.31, and finished 0-4. Jason Johnson did well in the fall league, but he might need more Triple-A time. Bryan Rekar needs to become more consistent, and Dave Eiland has to show he can retire major-league batters. Of the newcomers, Witt, who has had 16- and 17-win seasons, and Cooke, who spent several seasons in the Pirates' rotation, might have the best shots. Another possibility is Ontiveros, who last pitched in the big leagues in 1995. Rick Gorecki had shoulder surgery; Marc Valdes is expected to be ready around mid-season, and Ben McDonald is expected to sign before camp opens. Other key battles will be between Bobby Smith and Boggs for playing time at third base; for the backup catcher's job, and for a in ei worry about," Rothschild said. Some pitchers will be on a longer-term recovery schedule, including Vaughn Eshelman, Cory Lidle, Gorecki and Valdes. Infield-er Herbert Perry is continuing his comeback from knee injuries. 4. A healthy elbow will help Saunders shoulder the load. Tony Saunders' elbow . . . . . . and Kevin Stacker's left hand, Martinez's left thigh, Johnson's back, Alvarez's shoulder and Arrojo's tired arm. For the most part, the Rays are feeling good about how the returning injured players are feeling. "But for the players who had off-season questions, until you see how they perform, you're always a little anxious," LaMar said. The most pressing concern seems to be Saunders, the 24-year-old lefty who pitched considerably better than his 6-15 record and is being counted upon for big things. Saunders is said to be making an excellent recovery from Sept. 30 surgery to remove a small bone chip from his left elbow. "He's doing great," Rothschild said. "He feels good, better than he has in a long time. He's right on schedule." Johnson's 7-1 performance in the Arizona Fall League seems to indicate he is over trie sore back that sidelined him in July, and perhaps the inconsistency that marked his 2V2-month stint in the rotation. Alvarez, 2-9 in 15 starts after sue weeks on the disabled list, has impressed team officials with his hard off-season work. Arrojo, who led the team with 14 wins, is working back into form after finishing the season on the disabled list. Starting shortstop Stacker has been hitting with no trouble from the hand, and Martinez, who hopes to regain the rightfield job, has been running with no problem. "Those are not even things I McDonald is coming off arm surgery but should be ready in June. Devil Rays, McDonald inch closer to contract Compiled from rtaff, wire report! ST. PETERSBURG The Devil Rays expect to sign free agent pitcher Ben McDonald before spring train ing begins Thursday. "Negotiations have progressed to the point where hopefully we can get a deal done within the next two to three days," general manager Chuck LaMar said. McDonald, who averaged 11 victories a sea son trom 1992-96, is coming off rotator cuff surgery that sidelined him all of last season. While he eventually should contend for a spot in the rotation, he is not expected to be ready to pitch in the majors until early June. "It will be an incentive-laden contract with a low base salary," LaMar said. "We think he has a chance to be a productive player for us." McDonald, 31, was the No. 1 pick in the 1989 draft and went 78-70 for the Orioles and Brewers. W0HLERS COMEBACK: Braves closer Mark Wohlers made some progress while working out with pitching coach Leo Mazzone, but his comeback remains in limbo. Pitching at Turner Field, Wohlers continued to exhibit the same control problems that plagued him last season. "We're keeping our fingers crossed," manager Bobby Cox said. "We'll do whatever we can for him, because he'd be a huge plus for us if he rebounds." Wohlers' control problems were attributed, in part, to a strained oblique muscle, his mother's health problems and his divorce. The muscle has healed; his mother has recovered from a heart attack and is in much better health now; and Wohlers has had some time to work through his personal problems. "You have to take it a day at a time," pitcher Tom Glavine said. "He's not going to get up one morning and throw every pitch on the corner and throw every slider where he wants it. It'll be a gradual progression. If anybody thinks he'll get there in the next two or three days, they're crazy. It's not going to happen. That's why you have to be patient." Sports psychologist Jack Llewellyn has been working with Wohlers throughout the process. "I don't think he ever considered for a minute he wouldn't be able to pitch," Llewellyn said. "That's a big part of it, his attitude. And his attitude is tremendous." Staff writer John Romano contributed to this report 5. The Rays need more from McGriff than 19 homers, 81 RBI. Sweat on brow of McGriff . . . and John Flaherty, Roberto Hernandez, Sorrento, Alvarez, Stacker and Martinez. Collectively, the veterans were bad in 1998. Individually, several had their worst years. Whatever the reasons physical, mental, situational the Rays need more from them. "In spring training, both Larry and I are looking for a sense of urgency. And a sense of pride," LaMar said, "that (the veterans) are going to work their tails off in spring training, not only to improve our ballclub but to get themselves back to the performance most of them have enjoyed in the past. I think we'll have a sense in spring training who has dedicated themselves to having a better 1999." If the effort isn't there? The Rays won't be able to do much. LaMar insists few jobs are secure and floats the notion that trades are possible. Rothschild will threaten that playing time will be earned more by performance than reputation. But for the most part, the Rays are stuck with what they have, and they have to hope they, as a team, are better. The museum is named after the last player to hit .400, Ted Williams. HITTERS HALL OF FAME WHAT: Sixth annual Ted Williams Museum & Hitters Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony WHEN: Monday, 10:30 a.m. WHERE: Ted Williams Museum in Hernando. 1999 HALL OF FAME INDUCTEES: Yogi Berra, Al Kaline, Willie Stargell, Carl Yastrzemski and Sadaharu Oh. ADMISSION: Limited number of tickets available at $25, which includes a commemorative program and unassigned seats under a covered tent adjacent to the museum. The public may view the ceremony outside the tent for free. OTHER AWARD WINNERS: Wall of Great Achievements: Steve Carlton, Elroy Face; Splendid Splinter Award: Sammy Sosa; National League Players of the Year: Mark McGwire and Mike Piazza. American League Players of the Year: NomarGarciaparra and Albert Belle. SCHEDULED TO ATTEND: Eldon Auker, Steve Carlton, Dominic DiMaggio, Ryne Duren, Bob Feller, Nomar Garciaparra, Joe Ginsberg, Russ Kemmerer, Tommy Lasorda, Gaylord Perry, Jim Rivera, Enos Slaughter, Hal White, Yogi Berra, Ike DeLock, Walt Dropo, Elroy Face, Roy Firestone, Al Kaline, Ralph Kiner, Mickey McDermott, Johnny Pesky, Joe Pignatano, Willie Stargell, Virgil Trucks, Carl Yastrzemski, Andy Seminic, Otto Graham. FOR MORE INFORMATION: Call (352) 527-6566. - ANTON YA ENGLISH I

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