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Blast clanks off catwalk again

As opponents have drifted in and out of Tropicana Field, the stadium's catwalks have been a consistent source of controversy.

On April 4, White Sox slugger Frank Thomas' blast hit a catwalk and fell in foul territory. The hit, which by stadium ground rules should have been a strike, was called a home run.

On Saturday, the catwalks again came into play, but this time to the Rays' benefit.

With two outs in the first inning, Anaheim OF Jim Edmonds launched a Rolando Arrojo pitch deep and high to right-centerfield. But the blast, which probably would have landed 10 to 15 rows up, hit the second-level catwalk and fell into shallow centerfield.

It was called a fair ball and Edmonds, who kept running, stopped at second with a double. Arrojo then got Cecil Fielder to ground out and got out of the inning without a run.

"When it works to our advantage, we're all for it," said Rays CF Quinton McCracken, who had the best view of the shot. "When it doesn't, we need to change it."

Edmonds, who said he was aware of the ground rules before the game, was disappointed but understanding.

"Once they told me when we got here that (the catwalk) was in play, I figured it was going to happen sometime," Edmonds said. "I just wish it didn't happen to me."

Rays manager Larry Rothschild said something needs to be done about the ground rules.

"I think we're probably going to end up changing it," he said. "It's one of those things where it's real hard to tell. We really need to look at that."

MECIR'S STRETCH: Before entering in the eighth, reliever Jim Mecir had retired 14 straight batters. In 10 appearances, Mecir had not allowed a run.

So much for the streak. Mecir, who replaced Arrojo with Darin Erstad on third, intentionally walked Edmonds, then gave up a two-run double to Cecil Fielder and a two-run homer to Garret Anderson.

"Jim's come in and pitched well all year," Rothschild said. "I don't expect him to be perfect."

BACK-TO-BACK: If the Rays maintain status quo, C Mike DiFelice will be behind the plate for knuckleballer Dennis Springer tonight. DiFelice, who shares time with John Flaherty, has caught every Springer start this season.

But DiFelice caught Saturday's game and has not played in back-to-back games this season.

"No, I have never done that, but I'll be pumped," he said. "I don't think it will take anything out of me. I'm not just sitting down not doing anything when I'm not catching. I may be a little leg weary come Monday, though."

RAYS WRAPUP: It is a nice gesture, but the sign behind the centerfield fence should say "Quinton's Corner," not "Quintan's Corner." While biding time before the game, bench coach Frank Howard routinely does the daily crossword. "I like to fight through them early in the day and get the mind going." Anyone sitting in the Beach section of Tropicana Field for tonight's game will get a free Devil Rays bandana.

_ ROGER MILLS

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