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Lou sees Nettles as model for Sandberg

Published Sep. 1, 2005

Every major-league hitter would love to bat .320 with 45 homers and 130 RBIs. Of course, baseball doesn't work that way. Not everyone can be, say, Mickey Mantle.

But if Rays third baseman Jared Sandberg can turn into another former Yankee, Rays manager Lou Piniella would be happy. Piniella would love to see Sandberg, who knocked in the winning run in the bottom of the ninth Monday, become another Graig Nettles, Piniella's old teammate with the Yankees.

"That's the perfect guy to model himself after," Piniella said.

In other words, Piniella wants Sandberg to play well in the field and hit around .250 but pop 30 homers with 80 RBIs.

Piniella said he recently told Sandberg: "It seems to me like you're trying to be a .300 hitter and you're not going to be a .300 hitter. What you got to do is hit the ball with some power. If you can hit the ball for power and hit .250, you're going to find yourself playing third base for us or some other organization."

Sandberg appeared to be on target for that type of season after last season. He batted only .229 in 102 games but belted 18 homers with 54 RBIs.

But he failed to make the team out of spring training and has bounced between Triple-A Durham and the Rays. This is his second stint with the Rays. In 34 games, Sandberg is hitting .244 with two homers and 15 RBIs.

Like Piniella, Sandberg would love to put up Nettles' power numbers as well as play defense like Nettles.

"But I don't want to say I would settle for being a .250 hitter," Sandberg said. "My goal is to become a better hitter period and see how well I can do. I don't want to put limitations on myself."

GO-GO GAUDIN: Rays rookie pitcher Chad Gaudin, the youngest pitcher in the majors at 20, has been picked by Piniella to take Jorge Sosa's spot in the rotation. Gaudin will make his first major-league start Saturday in Cleveland.

"He has competed well, thrown strikes, and he shows good composure on the mound," Piniella said.

Gaudin has appeared in four games with a 1-0 record and 2.70 ERA. All four appearances have come in tight games.

"I was hoping that we would give him a couple of real easy experiences to start with, but we didn't have that luxury," Piniella said.

Sosa moves to the bullpen as a middle-to-long reliever.

IF AT FIRST: Piniella has managed plenty of good defensive first basemen over the years. He had Don Mattingly in New York with the Yankees, Hal Morris in Cincinnati and Tino Martinez and John Olerud in Seattle.

"I've always had good defensive first basemen," Piniella said.

Add another wizard with the glove to the list: the Rays' Travis Lee.

"He can flat play the position," said Piniella, who thinks Lee should be considered for a Gold Glove. "He gives a good target, can dig the ball out of the dirt. We've had a few errant throws over there if people are watching. So Travis has done a real nice job."

STILL TALKING: The Rays continue to negotiate with first-round pick Delmon Young. The Rays' development/scouting director Cam Bonifay, who is handling negotiations, said the sides will continue talking over the next few days, but he would not put a timetable on when a deal might be finalized.

MISCELLANY: Rocco Baldelli picked up his 138th hit, tying the club record for a rookie. Miguel Cairo had 138 in 1998. Lance Carter became the 15th rookie in major-league history to record 20 saves in a season. Seattle's Kazuhiro Sasaki holds the rookie record with 37 saves in 2000. Baltimore's Jay Gibbons had his hitting streak snapped at 15 games.

_ TOM JONES

"Magic' number

16 _ Wins needed in remaining 44 games to avoid 100 losses.

Current record: 47-71 .398

Current projection: 64-98 .395

Finish to avoid 100: 16-28 .364

TODAY: RAYS VS. ORIOLES

WHEN/WHERE: 2:15; Tropicana Field, St. Petersburg.

PITCHERS: Orioles _ RHP Rick Helling (7-8, 5.59); Rays _ RHP Jeremi Gonzalez (5-5, 3.46).

WORTH NOTING: Gonzalez makes his 60th big-league start and his 17th with the Rays. He has a team-high 11 quality starts (at least six innings pitched and three earned runs or fewer). Gonzalez has pitched 13 consecutive scoreless innings. The team record is 18 by Rolando Arrojo in 1998.

PROMOTIONS: The first 5,000 fans receive a Carl Crawford baseball card.

OUTTA LEFTFIELD Lou Piniella talked Tuesday about his days of playing winter ball in Nicaragua in the mid 1960s. The team he played for asked him to recommend a pitcher who could come over and help. Piniella did and the pitcher won his first four starts. So the team asked for another suggestion. Piniella gave another. "He won his two and then they sent me home," Piniella said. "Maybe they were trying to tell me I should be in scouting."