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Kennedy savors solid rebound

By KEVIN KELLY, Times Staff Writer

© St. Petersburg Times, published March 12, 2002


SARASOTA -- Satisfied with the way he responded after a shaky pitching performance four days earlier, Joe Kennedy stood by his locker Monday and methodically savored a postgame peanut butter and jelly sandwich and a soft drink.

SARASOTA -- Satisfied with the way he responded after a shaky pitching performance four days earlier, Joe Kennedy stood by his locker Monday and methodically savored a postgame peanut butter and jelly sandwich and a soft drink.

The left-hander, who will be in the Rays starting rotation when the season starts next month, pitched three shutout innings and allowed one hit while walking two and striking out two in a 3-1 loss to the Reds at Ed Smith Stadium.

"That made my day," manager Hal McRae said.

It was Kennedy's first appearance since he allowed three runs on three hits and walked three in 12/3 innings against the Yankees on Thursday.

"I'm definitely relieved," Kennedy said. "I don't want to get that (doubt) in there, don't want to lose confidence. I'm glad to come out and have a decent outing after a rough one like that, get back on track."

Of his 52 pitches Monday, 32 were strikes.

"My fastball was still all over the place but I was able to get it over the plate, get some ground balls," Kennedy said. "I was able to get ahead."

McRAYS BALL: Expect a more aggressive approach by the Rays on offense -- be it hit and runs, stolen bases and bunts -- as the spring wears on.

"We're getting the stage where we'll start to do more, things that we like to do or try to do," McRae said. "The first 10 games or so, the players need to go up there and get comfortable, see pitches and concentrate on getting their stroke."

The Rays' run against the Reds came after well-executed bunts by Carl Crawford and Jason Tyner and a groundout by Brent Abernathy.

ROUGH HOMECOMING: On the field where he pitched in high school, Sarasota native Bobby Seay gave up a walkoff two-run home run to outfielder Brady Clark in the ninth.

One batter earlier, third baseman Jared Sandberg prevented the winning run from scoring when he fielded a sharply hit grounder and threw home. Catcher Yamid Haad tagged Robin Jennings for the second out.

"I didn't think I was going to give up a two-run bomb right there," said Seay, who allowed two runs on two hits and got two outs.

"I thought that the inning was in my favor after that play happened. It's just one pitch and the ballgame's over."

STAYING PATIENT: Outfield prospect Josh Hamilton, slowed by persistent back pain, is on the third of five steps of a rehabilitation program at the Ray Naimoli training complex.

When Hamilton will start practicing remains unclear.

"He's coming along," Rays trainer Jamie Reed said.

"Instead of looking at a clock or calendar we're going by how he feels."

STREAK ENDS: With a home run off reliever Victor Zambrano in the fifth, Reds pinch-hitter Kevin Witt ended a streak of 23 scoreless innings by Rays pitchers.

The Rays entered Monday's game with an American League-leading 3.11 ERA in the spring.

"We're pitching good, and that makes me happy," McRae said.

ODDS AND ENDS: WDAE-AM 620 will broadcast the March 19 game against the Rangers at Port Charlotte instead of Friday's game against the Pirates. ... Shortstop Jason Smith (hamstring) is expected back Friday. ... Catcher John Flaherty will visit Patrick Goitia, a Plant High pitcher, and present him with a Rays jersey at Tampa General Hospital today. Goitia had a stroke while pitching Wednesday. ... Children ages 12-16 from the Pinellas County Sheriff's Office Boot Camp will attend Wednesday's game at Florida Power Park courtesy of the Rays.

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