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Rays making waves south of the border

They play in a different country, in ballparks that are less than modern, and take bus trips that would make the most veteran minor-leaguer cringe. It's easy to forget about them, but the Devil Rays players on the Mexico City Tigers have the same big-league dreams as other minor-leaguers.

There are seven players under contract with the Devil Rays playing in the Mexican League, which is said to be equivalent to Triple A. Under an agreement with the Tigers, the Devil Rays loaned the players to the team this year.

Position players Julio Franco and Iker Franco and pitchers Alejandro Armenta, Gerardo Garcia, Joe Strong, Jose Luis Garcia and Daniel Garibay are in Mexico City.

Julio Franco is the most recognizable player in the Mexican League. A three-time all-star and 15-year veteran, Franco is having a sensational season, hitting .423 in 91 games with 14 homers and 86 RBI.

Despite his numbers, Franco, 37, hasn't gotten a call-up and probably won't this season.

Gerardo Garcia is the top pitcher with a 5-1 record and a 4.60 ERA.

With good seasons, players in Mexico City can hope to move to Triple-A Durham next year.

ORLANDO: Two players had different streaks recently for the Rays. DH Roberto Colina hit safely in 10 straight games from July 15-28. OF Alex Sanchez, a speedy leadoff hitter, hasn't drawn a walk since June 24, a span of 17 games.

ST. PETERSBURG: Here are the final numbers for OF Kenny Kelly, who returned to Miami to prepare for football season: .275 average, 10 doubles, 4 triples, 3 home runs, 21 RBI and 12 steals.

The Devil Rays have won 12 of 13 games and are 18-16 through Monday. RHP Matt White won his eighth game against Clearwater on Monday, pitching seven innings and striking out six.

CHARLESTON: The RiverDogs are having a tough time at the plate. They have a .235 team average, and Derek Mann is hitting a team-high .289. OF Paul Wilder, coming back from a shoulder injury, is hitting .169 with 53 strikeouts.

PRINCETON/HUDSON VALLEY: It appears Josh Hamilton has mastered the lowest level of the minor leagues. The Devil Rays' top pick is hitting .335, eighth in the Appalachian League. He's third in hits (56) and doubles (13).

At Hudson Valley, Andrew Beinbrink is second in the New York/Penn League with 15 doubles and third in extra-base hits with 24. RHP Joe Kennedy is second in the league with 62 strikeouts in 59 innings.

_ RODNEY PAGE

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