07/20/2002 9:12 pm ET
Rays' future on display Saturday
Crawford, De Los Santos get the starting nods
By Paul C. Smith / MLB.com
TORONTO -- When you are in the position the Devil Rays are in, last and going nowhere soon, games such as Saturday's 12-10 loss to Toronto really don't matter in the grand scheme.
But the presence of Carl Crawford does.
For many Devil Rays hopeful, Crawford represents a chance to get away from the reality of seven-game losing streaks, 15-of-16 losses overall and a team-record 13 straight losses on the road.
Crawford made his Major League debut Saturday and, while his arrival was not heralded as much as, say, Adam Dunn's with the Reds, he is certainly important to future of the Tampa Bay organization.
Along with Rocco Baldelli, just promoted to Double-A Orlando, Crawford represents home-grown talent that is supposed to bear more successful fruit for this organization for years to come.
Crawford is expected to help people forget about 15-game losing streaks, unsuccessful player moves and consecutive last-place finishes.
Too much pressure on one young guy?
"I don't think so," Crawford said, after going 1-for-4 with a hits and two RBIs. "That's what I want to do anyway."
Crawford said he sees himself as a kind of a Devon White-type capable of playing stellar defense and eventually hitting 15-20 homers with 40-50 steals and a high on-base percentage.
"I've met (White)," Crawford said. "And coming up, I liked him a lot."
Crawford has been given the left field job and Hal McRae said he will bat low in the order until he shows he can handle more.
McRae was happy to finally get to see what the youngest Devil Ray ever (20 years 349 days) might be able to do.
"He got a hit and had a couple of RBIs, so I got a good look at him," McRae said. "I'm looking forward to seeing him play."
Crawford got the news about his promotion Friday while the Triple-A Durham team was in Louisville. He said his new status finally hit him as he approached the plate in his first at-bat. He grounded out to second. In his second at-bat, he grounded out to the pitcher. In his third at-bat, he drove in two runs with a solid single that made the score 11-5.
"I was just happy to get that first hit out of the way," Crawford said. "The pitches are a little better up here, a little crisper, a little sharper. I'm going to have to deal with it."
Crawford hit a short fly out to the shortstop in the eighth. And he was on deck with the bases loaded in the ninth when Jared Sandberg struck out to end the game.
"I was kind of hoping it would come to me, to get a chance to drive in the winning run," Crawford said.
Watching back home on the dish in Houston, was Crawford's mother, Leisha. Crawford said she was the first one he called when he got the news and that she was making plans to come to his next home game, Friday against the Yankees.
Crawford was not the only Devil Ray who made his debut Saturday. Starting pitcher Luis De Los Santos also sported a new uniform, after replacing veteran Wilson Alvarez on the roster and in the rotation.
But De Los Santos didn't fare as well as Crawford, giving up nine runs (eight earned) on nine hits and one walk in four innings. He struck out three and took the loss.
"He could have been a little nervous, it's only natural," McRae said. "He never really settled down. His pitches were up."
De Los Santos said he was not nervous.
"The first time, for me, was just like any other start where I try to throw strikes," De Los Santos said. "It was just a bad day. No excuses. I felt all right. It had been seven days since I last pitched but I was comfortable by the third inning. It was just a bad day. When I have a good day, then it's, 'woo hoo.'"
Paul C. Smith covers the Devil Rays for MLB.com and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball.
"I was just happy to get that first hit out of the way. The pitches are a little better up here, a little crisper, a little sharper. I'm going to have to deal with it."
-- Carl Crawford on Major League hitting