09/08/2002 1:11 pm ET
MLBeat: McRae seeking changes
By Paul C. Smith / MLB.com
ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- With his team mired in one of its worst stretches of the season, Hal McRae said he has been thinking a lot about the future of the team.
"In order to go forward, in hopes of getting better, changes are necessary," McRae said. "I hope changes are made [during the offseason] and [that] the changes are significant. I'm a big morale guy, and for the morale to improve, we've got to show that we're willing to make changes to help."
Since sweeping three games from the Rangers in Texas last weekend, the Rays have lost five straight games to the Angels and Rangers. They have been outscored 44-10 in those five games. Even during their 15-game losing streak earlier in the season, the Rays were not often dominated to that degree.
"I don't know if we've had a stretch like the last five games, where we've given up eight runs or so and not gotten good pitching," McRae said. "Usually, the starters would keep us in games, but that hasn't been happening. Overall, we have been hitting better since the All-Star Game, but we haven't been winning consistently.
"The basic problem is that we have holes to fill. I don't think we can improve without filling some holes. There has to be some damage control."
McRae said he would like to see some veterans acquired in the offseason to fill short-term holes in the bullpen, middle infield, starting rotation and possibly the outfield.
"We've got some good young players who are not far away from being ready for the Majors, but we need some guys to help the young players get better," McRae said. "Veterans who would not be in the way once the prospects are ready, but who understand their role and can help someone else."
The Rays are the youngest team in the Majors and have the lowest payroll, but 2003 figures to be another year of learning and developing for a franchise that is pointing toward 2004 as a potential year for vast improvement.
"That's good, but you can't skip 2003 to give 2004 a chance," McRae said. "We have to have some changes. Right now, there is not enough knowledge to pass down to the younger players. Everybody is scrambling, just trying to tread water.
"We need players who are believable and have learned from someone else. Because when players talk to other players, it doesn't mean anything unless you've had success. We don't have that right now. There has to be change."
McRae said he believes he is the right person to lead the Rays to respectability and possibly beyond. He has a contract that extends through the 2003 season and wants to be back but realizes that he might be included in potential changes.
"If I am, then that's change," McRae said. "All I know is, you can't come back with the same mix and expect things to be different."
Notes: McRae said Brent Abernathy and Felix Escalona would play second base and shortstop, respectively, again on Monday night against Boston. "We'll give them back-to-back games to give them a chance to show something." ... All the Rays players signed autographs from noon until 12:45 on Sunday as a way to say thanks to fans. ... The Rays signed their 37th-round draft pick, infielder Shane Shelley from Belle Chase, La., and assigned him to their instructional camp on Sept. 15. The Rays have now signed 23 of their 2002 picks. However, there has been no change in the continued negotiations with No.1 pick, shortstop B.J. Upton. ... Paul Wilson had a bullpen session on Sunday and said he is set for his start on Wednesday vs. the Red Sox.
Fantasy Edge: Travis Harper got two starts filling in for Wilson and Joe Kennedy, who had tired arms, but Harper is not expected to start again this season, especially if Dewon Brazelton comes up from Durham after the International League playoffs.
Paul C. Smith covers the 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 or its clubs.