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Pujols a Ray: Yes, it could have happened

 
Published Oct. 27, 2004|Updated Aug. 28, 2005

Things haven't worked out as well as they could have, but the Devil Rays had a pretty good draft in 1999, landing Josh Hamilton, Carl Crawford, Doug Waechter and Seth McClung with four of their first five picks.

It could have been even better.

They could have had Albert Pujols.

Because Pujols wasn't taken until the 13th round by St. Louis, it's obvious all 30 teams misjudged his talent. But the Rays had something of an inside track, as Midwest area scout Fernando Arango persistently raved about the relatively unknown junior college hitter who was playing out of position at shortstop.

The Rays twice sent scouting supervisors to see him play, and neither was impressed. Then they brought him to the Trop for a workout, but he looked awkward at the plate and so uncomfortable in the field they asked him to put on the catcher's gear.

"It was just an ugly workout," former scouting director Dan Jennings said.

The Rays put him on their board as a potential second-day pick, somewhere in rounds 30-50. The Cards took him in the 13th round, 402nd overall, and for $60,000 have one of the game's best players.

"You could say it was one of our biggest oversights, but you'd have to say that about the other 28 teams," said Jennings, now a Marlins vice president. "I just wish we would have been smart enough to take him in the 12th round."

HISTORY LESSON: The Red Sox are the 21st team to take a 3-0 Series lead. The first 20 all won the championship, 17 by completing the four-game sweep. The last team to lose Game 4 after winning the first three was the 1970 Orioles, who came back and eliminated Cincinnati the next night. The other two teams to drop Game 4 also won in Game 5: the 1937 Yankees, over the Giants; and the 1910 Philadelphia A's, over the Cubs.

MARQUEE ATTRACTION: Jason Marquis pitched more this season (201 innings) than he ever had, and some think that may be the reason he is not pitching as well now.

Manager Tony La Russa didn't discount the possibility but is hopeful Marquis will pitch well in Game 4 tonight.

"That could be an issue, because that's new territory," La Russa said. "If you believe him, then you've got to be careful, because he's one of those guys that has a hero complex. He's going to tell you he's ready to pitch. But he says he feels physically good. And I would think because he has had a couple of struggling starts, he really hasn't been extended lately, so he should be, for this time of year, as fresh as you can be."

WORTH NOTING: The Red Sox have won seven straight postseason games. Ten of Boston's 21 runs have come with two outs. The Cardinals had won all their first six home postseason games. Tuesday marked the first Series game in St. Louis since Oct. 22, 1987. It was the 58th Series game in Missouri, breaking a three-way second-place tie with California and Pennsylvania. New York leads with 188. Boston's Manny Ramirez extended his postseason hitting streak to 16 games, matching the second longest. Orlando Cabrera has hit in 10 straight.

_ MARC TOPKIN, Times staff writer