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Rays get glimpse of Guillen's rifle

The throw to third base from Devil Rays rightfielder Jose Guillen was too late to catch Roberto Alomar, who tagged from second.

But because Guillen caught Jim Thome's fly ball a step from the warning track and made the throw on one bounce, the effort was a success.

"He actually caught that ball a little flat-footed and threw it, which makes it a little bit more amazing," Rays manager Larry Rothschild said of the fourth-inning play. "He's going to throw some people out if they try to run on him."

Guillen made his first start for the Rays in Sunday's 5-3 victory over the Indians at Tropicana Field, just 14 hours after finishing a five-RBI game for Triple-A Durham.

Guillen, acquired July 23 from the Pirates with pitcher Jeff Sparks for catcher Joe Oliver and minor-league catcher Humberto Cota, got to the ballpark at 12:40 p.m., less than an hour before game time.

The highly regarded 23-year-old said he didn't expect to start.

"But I said, "Let's go,' " he said. "I'm starting my new life and my new career. If you have a love for the game and you say you're tired, there's something wrong."

Rothschild said Guillen will play regularly in right. Dave Martinez will get more time in center and Terrell Lowery will alternate between center and left.

Guillen went 0-for-4 Sunday, but nobody talked about his hitting.

"He's got a cannon," said first-base coach Billy Hatcher, who works with the outfielders. "He's going to be a good little player for us."

DOWN AND OUT: As he cleaned out his locker Sunday, Bryan Rekar had the look of a man not expecting to return.

Rekar was optioned to Durham to make room for Wilson Alvarez, who was activated from the disabled list. Rekar is tied for the team lead in victories with a 6-6 record, but he has a 5.80 ERA.

Rekar, 27, said he felt he never got into a rhythm while switching between the rotation and the bullpen.

"I feel, maybe, they don't want me," Rekar said. "Maybe a fresh start would be good, but that's what this was supposed to be, too."

Rekar was acquired from Colorado with the 19th pick in the expansion draft.

"I don't think the question is do we believe in him, but rather does he believe in himself," Rothschild said. "He's had every opportunity to prove himself. We're not going to give up on a guy with a good arm, but at some point you have to prove you can pitch here."

STILL HERE: Rekar's demotion means rookie Mickey Callaway stays with the big-league club. Since Callaway had taken Alvarez's spot in the rotation, there was a chance he was going back to Durham.

"When I got here today, Larry said I was going to the bullpen," Callaway said. "It was a pleasant surprise for me."

Callaway will be available in relief early this week, but he could get a chance to start again, Rothschild said.

ON THE MEND: Miguel Cairo is expected to play his second rehab game with Class A St. Petersburg today and be activated when he is eligible to come off the DL Tuesday. He has been out since July 26 with a strained left hamstring.

FAN APPRECIATION: Rothschild said he wants to see more crowds like the spirited ones that pushed attendance for the three-game series to 107,187. The last time the Rays drew 100,000 for a three-game series was a year ago against the Indians (106,003).

"You can see the excitement in the stadium," he said. "At this time of year you can start to drag. When you get people in the stadium, it really pumps you up."

RAYS BITS: Mike Hogan, the 32-year-old Tampa resident who caught Wade Boggs' home run Saturday night, will receive a pair of 1999 season tickets. The assistant sports information director at the University of South Florida traded the ball for a Boggs jersey. The Devil Rays said they sold 1,000 T-shirts, lapel pins and balls commemorating Boggs' 3,000th hit. More will be available Tuesday at Tropicana Field. The toy drive for Christmas Toy Shop in St. Petersburg that was burglarized last month brought in 1,200 toys. The Rays donated $2,500.

_ DAMIAN CRISTODERO,

JOHN ROMANO

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