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Fish safe from Lou for a day

All in all, Lou Piniella would rather be fishing. In fact, that's what the Devil Rays manager said he planned before he knew Tampa Bay had to face the Yankees today in New York.

The game was rescheduled after the Rays, detained by Hurricane Frances, could not make it to Yankee Stadium to play the first game of a Sept. 6 doubleheader.

Many assumed the game would be made up, if necessary, on Oct. 4, the day after the end of the regular season, and Piniella said that would have been his preference. Instead, Tampa Bay, three days after a 14-day road trip and without another day off this season, will play a road game in the middle of a nine-game homestand.

"And I was really looking forward to going fishing," Piniella said. "And the one-day road trip is hard. We fly in and fly out."

Better, he said, would have been to see if the game was critical in the divisional race. But catcher Brook Fordyce said he feels worse for the Tigers, who come to St. Petersburg on Sept. 30 for a doubleheader to make up games also postponed by Frances.

"It's major-league baseball. You have to live with it," Fordyce said. "Look at Detroit. They're coming here for two. We didn't have to make those games up. So the way I look at it is, let's go up there (to New York) and beat them."

STAYING HOME: Piniella said Scott Kazmir, Dewon Brazelton, Rob Bell and Doug Waechter did not make the trip because they are not scheduled to pitch. "I got the captain for them," Piniella joked of his aborted fishing trip.

PINIELLA TOSSED: Piniella was ejected for the second time this season in the second. The spark was a couple of called strikes on Aubrey Huff, who was caught looking in the first.

Piniella, who has been tossed 56 times as a manager and 70 times in his career, said his mistake was telling Mike Winters he watched replays of the disputed pitches.

"I was reminded you can't talk about replays," Piniella said. "That's why I got kicked out."

The manager said he made himself comfortable in his office and turned on the television.

"I had an egg roll and a cold beer and watched the game," he said.

STOP IT: Piniella said he hopes speculation he is a candidate to replace the Mets' Art Howe has finally come to an end. "What else can I say?" he said. "I'm signed here for two years and my coaches have been offered two-year extensions. I think that paints a pretty good picture."

ERROR PRONE: What is with Julio Lugo? The shortstop has seven errors in his past eight games, and his career-high 26 are tied for the league lead with Kansas City's Angel Berroa.

"To go through a streak like that, it's tough because I really work hard and take pride in my defensive game," Lugo said.

Piniella said fatigue might be a factor. Lugo has played a career-high 146 games.

"I think it's caught up to him a little bit," Piniella said. "He's done a really nice job here, but this past week you lose your concentration a little bit, you're a little tired. And the shortstop position is a demanding position in and of itself."

ODDS AND ENDS: Leftfielder Carl Crawford got a breather in the field but got two at-bats as a DH. As expected, the Rays announced a new low Class A affiliate in Battle Creek, Mich. Rays catcher Toby Hall was nominated by the team for the Roberto Clemente Award presented annually for athletic skill and community work. Matt Diaz's first major-league home run broke an 0-for-14 streak since his callup from Triple-A Durham.

FINAL THOUGHT: Piniella called Tampa Bay's starting pitching "a mess." Not surprising considering starters have lasted at least five innings in just 49 of 150 games.

"We're going to start listing all our starters as W-A," Piniella said. "Who's available."

_ DAMIAN CRISTODERO, Times staff writer

TODAY: RAYS AT YANKEES

PITCHERS: Rays _ RHP Todd Ritchie (0-1, 6.75), Yankees _ RHP Jon Lieber (12-8, 4.40).

NOTES: Ritchie was the 14th starter used by the Rays this season, tying a club record. He has no record with a 2.61 ERA in four relief appearances against the Yankees and has allowed 12 hits in 10 innings. Lieber has won five of his past six decisions and three straight in which he struck out 20 and walked one in 20 innings. He has 18 walks in 163 innings. He is 9-3 with a 3.71 ERA at Yankee Stadium with 57 strikeouts and nine walks in 87 innings.

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