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Rookie downplays first start at home

By KEVIN KELLY, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published April 21, 2002

ST. PETERSBURG -- He has watched a game from the stands and once was honored on the field before a game for helping thwart a bank robbery.

But Delvin James never has stood on the mound and thrown a pitch at Tropicana Field.

Until today.

The 24-year-old makes his second start, and first at home, against the Orioles.

"It's like any other start now," James said. "It's not the first start anymore. I feel comfortable in the clubhouse and comfortable with the atmosphere."

Recalled from Triple-A Durham on Monday after Wilson Alvarez went on the 15-day disabled list and Paul Wilson was pushed back until Saturday, James made his debut against the Tigers on Tuesday.

He threw 57 pitches and allowed two runs on five hits in five innings.

"You can't say you really figured anything out in one start," James said. "I definitely gained confidence in that if you make good pitches no matter what level you're at, you're going to get outs.

"Major-league hitters are going to make adjustments, and I just have to be able to make adjustments as I go along ... but a lot quicker than I had in the past. I think I'm capable of doing that."

UPON FURTHER REVIEW: After watching replays Saturday, manager Hal McRae said he is convinced Bobby Smith made a sliding catch in foul territory during the eighth inning of Friday's 6-5 loss.

First-base umpire Andy Fletcher said Smith caught Jeff Conine's foul ball, dropped it then trapped it against the netting strung between the railings in the Rays dugout.

"I don't think the umpires had a good view of it," McRae said. "I think they assumed he wasn't going to catch it.

"When we looked at the video, he caught it. We saw his glove and then his glove hit the (netting). That gave you the indication that he caught it."

Conine hit a two-run double four pitches later to tie a game that didn't end until the 14th inning. Backup catcher Brook Fordyce squeezed home Tony Batista for the victory.

MORE FRIDAY FALLOUT: The 94-mph fastball Esteban Yan threw a foot behind Conine after a balk in the 13th Friday did not sit well with Orioles manager Mike Hargrove.

"It was a gutless thing for a guy to do," Hargrove said. "He so blatantly threw at Jeff I thought (the plate umpire) should have kicked the guy out of the game because it was so obvious he threw at Jeff. He had every right to eject him."

COMING ALONG: Since being moved from leadoff to No.2, Jason Tyner has started to emerge from a slump by going 5-for-11 in the past two games.

The leftfielder singled and scored in his first two at-bats Saturday, flew out to left and bunted his way on in the eighth after making a sliding catch to end the seventh.

"I'm just giving myself a better chance," Tyner said. "I'm trying to hit the ball more so on the ground, bunting more. I'm trying to play the way I always play."

LINEUP SHIFT: A few more changes to the batting order were made Saturday with first baseman Steve Cox still resting a strained groin and catcher Toby Hall getting the night off.

Rightfielder Ben Grieve, intentionally walked twice Friday, moved to the No.4 spot and designated hitter Greg Vaughn was dropped to No.5.

"It's the first game that Ben got pitched around," McRae said. "It's good for his ego to know he's alive. He's a threat again."

ODDS AND ENDS: Smith struck out twice to run his AL-leading total to 24. He is on pace for 243, which would shatter the major-league record (189) set by Bobby Bonds in 1970. ... Centerfielder Randy Winn has hit in seven in a row. ... Second baseman Brent Abernathy did not reach base for the first time in 15 games this season.


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