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Tampa Bay Rays fastest to reach 100 steals and 100 homers

ST. PETERSBURG — The Rays had a little difficulty sorting out their place in history, research showing they were the fifth team, not the first, to total 100 home runs and 100 stolen bases before the All-Star break.

But, reflecting the speed and power required for such a feat, they did so in fewer games, 77, than any team. And with 100 homers and 118 steals, they could achieve more history. They're on a pace for 210 homers and 248 steals. Only the 1996 Rockies finished with at least 200 of each.

"It speaks to the athleticism of the group," manager Joe Maddon said. "I think we have a great combination of speed and power. Everybody looks at us and always talks about how fast we are and how well we run and all that stuff.

"I never heard the credit for the power, and that's good, that's fine, because I know we have it. You look up and down the lineup, and of course, the ascension of (Ben) Zobrist really takes us over the top. And wait until Pat (Burrell, who has two homers) gets going, because he's going to get going. … It's really an interesting group."

NATIONAL PERSPECTIVE: The Rays finished interleague play 13-5, third best in the majors and second in the American League behind the 14-4 Angels. … The Marlins were 1-5 vs. the Rays, 9-3 vs. the other AL East teams. … Gabe Kapler hit .500 (11-for-22) against National League teams.

TOUGH CHOICE: Second-round draft pick SS Kenny Diekroger and family spent the weekend on a recruiting visit. They met with team officials, including principal owner Stuart Sternberg, and Diekroger worked out before Sunday's game. He has until Aug. 17 to decide between what he called "two great options," the Rays and Stanford.

"At this point I'm not sure what I'm going to do," he said. "I don't want to be forced to make any decision. I want the decision to be the right thing. … I'm just going to wait for it to come to me."

The Rays have signed about half their 50 picks and will soon add No. 19, RHP Rutherford Shuman, and No. 21, RHP Matthew Swilley. Scouting director R.J. Harrison called talks with their top picks "an ongoing process."

HEADING NORTH: Tonight is the Rays' 78th game of the season and their first against the division opponent Blue Jays. That's odd, as is playing 18 of their remaining 85 games (21 percent) against Toronto.

"It is kind of unusual … whereas you've played people outside your division twice already," Maddon said.

The Rays have also yet to play the Rangers, whom they'll see after the Jays, and the Tigers, whom they don't face until late August. They've played two series each against the Indians, Twins and A's.

"There's so many things about the schedule that I'm sure there's probably a lot of good answers to that I don't know," Maddon said. "You just deal with it and move on."

As for having to face Jays ace Roy Halladay in their first game? "We're looking forward to that like a root canal," he said.

SPECIAL K: LHP Scott Kazmir felt good the morning after his successful return to the rotation but said he still had a few issues with repeating his delivery and can do better. "There were some times when I'd go in and out of where I felt really comfortable, but it's definitely something to build on," he said. "Put it this way: In Port Charlotte and Durham (for rehab starts), I just felt so much better. I just felt relaxed and not trying to do too much, and I want to get back to that."

MISCELLANY: Maddon said it's possible the Rays will tweak the rotation with two upcoming off days, which could allow them to separate rookies David Price (who Sunday had his first quality start) and Jeff Niemann. … B.J. Upton's homer was the first of his six off a lefty. … The Rays have won 20 of their past 25 home games.

Tampa Bay Rays fastest to reach 100 steals and 100 homers 06/28/09 [Last modified: Monday, June 29, 2009 7:47am]
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