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Cox excels whenever he can

Despite spotty playing time, converted outfielder is among AL's top rookies.

Hours before Friday's game, Steve Cox sat alone on the bench at Network Associates Coliseum.

It was the first time Cox would play here, having been drafted by the A's and having spent six years in their minor-league system before the Devil Rays plucked him in the expansion draft, but he wasn't lamenting what might have been.

"Everything works out the way it's supposed to," Cox said. "Not to say that I never would have made it, but I hadn't done anything to deserve it at that point."

Besides, Cox is having too much fun dealing with the reality of his success with the Devil Rays.

While most of the Rays have been in an offensive funk, Cox has continued to impress. He went 7-for-15 with two homers in the four-game series at Cleveland and went into play Friday hitting .297, matching Kansas City's Mark Quinn for the best showing by an American League rookie.

Cox also ranked first among AL rookies in on-base percentage (.403) and second in slugging percentage (.490). His 10 home runs ranked fifth and left him two shy of Bubba Trammell's 1998 team rookie record.

Those are pretty good numbers for a rookie who doesn't have the luxury of knowing he'll be playing every day, and even more impressive when you consider he's been learning how to play the outfield at the same time.

"He has good at-bats," manager Larry Rothschild said. "He'll take some pitches and he just gives you a good concentrated effort every night."

About the only person not impressed has been Cox.

"I think I've been pretty inconsistent, really," Cox said. "I've felt decent, but I haven't had that feeling of total consistency. I have a couple good at-bats and a couple bad at-bats. That's baseball.

"I'm just learning. I'm learning the pitchers. They're different up here. In the minor leagues, they're all the same, basically. That's why they're in the minor leagues. But here they're something special, and you've got to face them to know what they're doing."