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Naimoli says deal should help sport

By KEVIN KELLY and MARC TOPKIN, Times staff writers
© St. Petersburg Times
published September 6, 2002

ST. PETERSBURG -- After casting his vote in favor of ratifying the new labor agreement Thursday, Rays managing general partner Vince Naimoli called it a historic day and a step forward for baseball.

"It was a settlement of a negotiation and, as typical in negotiations, neither side gets exactly what they want," Naimoli said from Chicago. "But it's a good settlement. It should help the game of baseball and should help us."

Now that owners have approved the new agreement, which will provide additional funds through increased revenue sharing and implementation of a luxury tax, the players must ratify the deal.

Player representative John Flaherty said he was awaiting word on a conference call with the union's executive board.

Once that conference call takes place, Flaherty said he expected player representatives will be asked to poll the team and relay their results on a second conference call.

JACK OF ALL TRADES: Throughout the course of the season Travis Harper has proved to be a valuable commodity. The right-hander has made 33 appearances, including five starts. He will make his second straight spot start today.

"He's done so many things for the club . . . spot, middle, short, whatever we ask him to do he's done a good job doing it," manager Hal McRae said. "I think that is his role."

Harper is 2-2 with a 5.68 ERA as a starter and 3-5 with one save and a 3.72 ERA out of the bullpen.

SETTLING DOWN: During his first stint with the Rays this season, Lee Gardner caught himself shaking with nervousness as he exited the bullpen and took the mound.

The right-hander pitched himself back to Triple A as a result. But the difference this time is Gardner has begun to find a comfort zone. Named the top reliever in the International League this season, he is 1-0 with a 0.00 ERA in his past three outings.

"Down there (in Triple A) you're facing maybe two guys in the lineup that have been in the big leagues," Gardner said. "Here you're facing everybody. That's tough. It's something you have to get over.

"Your stuff was good enough to get here so I've just got to use that stuff and get better over time instead of trying to make it better every pitch."

REMEMBERING 9-11: In addition to MLB's remembrance of the events of Sept. 11, 2001, the Rays will have a ceremony before Wednesday's game against the Red Sox.

U.S. Army Gen. Tommy Franks, commander in chief of the U.S. Central Command, will address fans while police and fire department personnel from the Tampa Bay area will stand beside players and coaches during introductions and the national anthem.

Fans also will receive commemorative T-shirts with "We Shall Not Forget" printed on them.

MINOR MATTERS: The Rays announced their instructional league roster and several 2002 draft picks were included: infielder Jason Pridie and outfielders Joey Gomes, Elijah Dukes and Wes Bankston. Players report Thursday; games begin Sept. 23.

FANS FIRST: Because of the inclement weather, fans can bring their tickets stubs from Thursday's game to the Tropicana Field box office and receive a free outfield ticket to Sunday's game.

MISCELLANY: Triple-A Durham took a 2-0 edge in the best-of-five International League playoffs with an 8-5 13-inning win over Toledo. The Bulls can clinch a spot in the finals tonight when they play Game 3 in Durham. ... Pitcher Paul Wilson threw in the bullpen for the first time since his 31/3-inning outing Aug. 30 against the Rangers and was said to be fine. . . . Aubrey Huff's fourth-inning homer extended his career-high hitting streak to 12 games. . . . Pitcher Nick Bierbrodt, shot twice while on a rehabilitation assignment in June, has started working out at the Naimoli complex and hopes to begin playing catch in October. . . . Joe Kennedy's error in the third was his major-league-leading eighth this season.

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