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BASEBALL / DOWN THE LINE

Sam Fuld comes to Rays' rescue

Outfielder is making the most of an opportunity to play when Manny Ramirez retired.

April 23, 2011|By Kevin Baxter and Bill Shaikin
  • Tampa Bay's Sam Fuld leads the American League with 10 stolen bases this season.
Tampa Bay's Sam Fuld leads the American League with 10 stolen bases… (Nathan Denette / Associated…)

Manny Ramirez's retirement 2½ weeks ago left the Tampa Bay Rays with a couple of big holes to fill.

His absence from the batting order robbed the Rays of what they thought would be one of their top offensive threats. And at the box office, Ramirez's retirement forced the team to cancel a promotional date featuring the player's bobbleheads.

Which is when Sam Fuld swooped in to save the day.

And if your response to that last sentence was "Sam who?" then you haven't been watching the highlight shows.

When Ramirez quit, the Rays moved Johnny Damon to designated hitter, opening a spot for Fuld in the outfield. Since then Tampa Bay, 0-5 with Ramirez, has won 10 of 16 games with Fuld leading the American League in stolen bases (10) and ranking among the leaders in hitting (.365) after the Rays' victory Saturday.

Fuld, 29, who had fewer than 100 games of big league experience when the Rays acquired him from the Chicago Cubs in the Matt Garza trade last winter, is contributing off the field as well. Inspired in part by two acrobatic, gravity-defying defensive plays, the Rays scraped next month's Ramirez bobblehead promotion and will give away Sam Fuld superhero capes.

Not bad for a guy who hit .143 in 19 games with the Cubs last season.

But the legend of Sam Fuld has been an even bigger hit on Twitter, where a recent four-hit game against the Boston Red Sox — he would have become the first Ray to hit for the cycle if he hadn't hustled a ninth-inning single into a double — spawned these tweets, according to mlb.com reporter Bill Chastain.

"Sam Fuld was once intentionally walked while in the on-deck circle."

"Honus Wagner bought a Sam Fuld rookie card at auction."

"Sam Fuld counted to infinity twice."

"Sam Fuld can slam a revolving door."

Fuld, who has an economics degree from Stanford and who is the son of a New Hampshire state senator, isn't a Twitter follower so his newfound popularity was news to him.

"Oh, man," he told Chastain. "I was not aware of this, I don't know if that's a good or bad thing."

Yada yada yada

No team had a worse record than the 7-13 New York Mets before Saturday. Their outlook appears so dreary that Andy Martino of the New York Daily News started his account of the 17th game of the season this way:

"Blah blah blah blah rain blah blah blah Niese blah blah Astros blah blah Mets got spanked. Blah blah, 6-1. We really don't know what else to tell you about this one."

These fish have arms

With the addition of Cliff Lee, the Philadelphia Phillies may have one of the best pitching rotations ever assembled. But don't overlook the Florida Marlins, who have put together a staff that's even better than the Josh Beckett-Brad Penny-Carl Pavano one that led them to a World Series title in 2003.

All-Star Josh Johnson is 3-0 and leads the majors in earned-run average (1.00), opponents' batting average (.112) and WHIP (0.59), and Ricky Nolasco is 2-0 with 3.00 ERA. Add Anibal Sanchez, who has more strikeouts (26) than innings pitched (251/3) after coming within a pitch of his second career no-hitter Friday, and the Marlins have a top three than can pitch with anyone.

And backing them up is a bullpen that began play Saturday with a 1.63 ERA, lowest in the majors by more than three-quarters of a run per nine innings.

—Kevin Baxter and Bill Shaikin

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