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Mecir finds a pennant race, if not good eats

In Oakland, he has had to adapt except on the field.

The trade has led to a trade-off.

At times, like when he's looking for a familiar face or for a decent place to eat, Jim Mecir still misses pitching for the Devil Rays and living in the Tampa Bay area.

At other times, like when he looks at the standings and sees the realistic possibility of advancing to the playoffs, being dealt to the Oakland A's doesn't seem like such a bad deal.

"Baseball-wise, it's been great," Mecir said. "It's just different after a game _ you're driving a rental car, you're going to a hotel, you're always looking for places to eat."

When some players are traded, they feel obligated to say they're sorry to be leaving whatever town they had been in.

But Mecir meant it. He played at Eckerd College in St. Petersburg, and he and his wife, Pam, quickly decided to make their permanent home in the Tampa Bay area once the Rays nabbed him in the November 1997 expansion draft.

"We miss it because we made it our home for three years," Mecir said. "She probably misses it more than I do."

As much as the Rays have missed having Mecir's steadying presence in their bullpen, the A's have been happy to have him. In 17 appearances before Monday's game, he had a 1-1 record, a 3.68 ERA and four saves (in eight opportunities) as a temporary replacement for struggling closer Jason Isringhausen.

"I haven't been pitching badly," Mecir said. "Probably a little better than my numbers. I've made a couple mistakes, but it hasn't gone too badly."

Oakland manager Art Howe decided last weekend that Isringhausen was ready to resume his role as closer, but Isringhausen likely will be on a short leash.

With the A's locked in dual battles _ chasing Seattle for the American League West title and Cleveland for the wild-card spot _ Mecir's role will be increasingly significant.

Overall, Mecir said, he is enjoying the opportunity. "Definitely," he said. "It's something I haven't experienced before."