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While in K.C., Boggs is hoping to spend time with his idol

Wade Boggs says he always wanted to be like George Brett, and now that Boggs has joined the 3,000-hit club, they have one more thing in common.

The Devil Rays' future Hall of Famer and the Royals' newest member of baseball's elite are good friends, close enough that Boggs named his son after Brett and that Brett agreed to be Brett Boggs' godfather.

Brett, a Royals vice president, is expected at Kauffman Stadium today, and Boggs is hoping they can find some time together.

"George is the greatest hitter I've ever seen," Boggs said. "I wanted to be like George Brett the whole time I was coming up."

Boggs said the two "started palling around together" in 1983 and that when he and his wife,Debbie, had their son three years later, "it was a no-brainer" to name him Brett. The Red Sox happened to be playing host to the Royals during the weekend of baby Brett's christening, so it worked out just fine for George Brett to be the godfather.

"I idolized George, and doing that reflected the tremendous amount of respect I had for him," Boggs said.

Brett won't be able to make it to Boggs' Tropicana Field tribute Aug. 22, but is expected to tape a message.

Boggs was unable to play Saturday due to inflammation in his right knee, and is unlikely to play today.

BULLPEN BLUES: Closer Roberto Hernandez is concerned over the heavy usage of the bullpen, especially the pattern of using some of the relievers only in games with a lead (such as Albie Lopez, Esteban Yan and Norm Charlton) and others only when trailing (Mike Duvall and lately Rick White).

"You can't beat the same horses. Sometimes you've got to take a chance with some other guys," Hernandez said. "It gives them confidence to go into a game when it means something and be able to pick up the other guys. There are some days when you've got to use (certain) guys in winning situations, but there are also some days when you've got to find out what guys are made of."

CANSECO REPORT: DH Jose Canseco continues to progress in his rehabilitation from July 11 back surgery and will hit in a simulated game Monday against RHP Cory Lidle, who is rehabbing from an elbow injury. Canseco also is expected to run the bases on Monday, a key test in determining if he can return to the lineup on Friday as he hopes to do. Lidle, who has been out most of two seasons, could be pitching in games next month. He was claimed on waivers from Arizona in October.

STOCK DOWN: The Rays are not sure when SS Kevin Stocker will return to game action. Stocker had been making progress with his troublesome left knee but is having problems again. "The more he tests it, the more the soreness comes back is the way I understand it," Rothschild said. Stocker has inflammation under the kneecap, a condition that has bothered him for months and led to placement on the disabled list July 22. The Rays have tried a variety of treatment options and tests, but can't seem to pinpoint the problem or the cure. Trainer Jamie Reed said exploratory surgery would be an option, but that since it would require at least an eight-week recovery period, "we want to exhaust every other possibility."

EILAND OF REDEMPTION: RHP Dave Eiland is looking to make amends for a brutal performance in his last start (six runs in 1 innings), but says he feels no sense of urgency to redeem himself. "It was just one of those days," Eiland said. "Everyone who's toed the rubber has had days like that. If I'm not allowed to have one that's too bad." Eiland said he made a few adjustments during off-day workouts and should be ready to go. "I learned from it, now you forget about it and move on," he said.

RAYS BITS: Kansas City's Mike Sweeney went 0-for-4, ending his 25-game hitting streak. . . . Fred McGriff will be off today with hopes he can return to first base Monday. . . . The Rays can win their first road series since July 1. . . . The Rays' 37 one-run games tie Toronto for most in the AL. Tampa Bay is 22-15 in those games. . . . The Rays are on pace for 195 double plays, which would be the most for an AL team since the Angels turned 202 in 1985.

_ MARC TOPKIN

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