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Gomes waited for his chance

By KEVIN KELLY, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published February 16, 2003

ST. PETERSBURG -- Out of work and looking for a chance to continue his career, Wayne Gomes pulled into the parking lot at the Ray Naimoli Complex at 5:30 a.m. on Friday and waited.

And waited ... .

The veteran relief pitcher, a victim of a sluggish free-agent market this offseason, sat there nearly four hours before getting the opportunity to speak face-to-face with manager Lou Piniella.

"I pretty much just showed up, talked to him and expressed that I wanted to pitch for him," said Gomes, who left his Virginia home on Tuesday and stopped in Gainesville to work out with Florida coach Pat McMahon, who coached Gomes at Old Dominion. "That's all I want. I don't want any promises. I know they can't give any promises. I just wanted the opportunity."

With 38 pitchers originally invited to camp, and only five major-league saves between them last season after the departure of closer Esteban Yan this offseason, the Rays are in search of relief pitching. They signed Gomes to a minor-league contract with an invitation to spring training, and he participated in drills Saturday.

Lance Carter, whose two saves for the Rays last season are the most of any reliever in camp, earned a tryout before last season after contacting former manager Hal McRae.

"This kid showed up and he wouldn't leave," Piniella said of Gomes. "We're going to give him an opportunity. He's got some major-league experience and we'll let him compete."

Gomes, who has pitched for the Phillies, Giants and Red Sox and is a good friend of second baseman Marlon Anderson, was 1-2 with a 4.64 ERA and one save in 20 games for Boston last season. He has 29 saves in 50 career opportunities. "You've definitely got to shine (with so many pitchers in camp)," Gomes said. "You've got to separate yourself from the pack because there are a lot of bodies. I know what I have against me."

READY TO GO: Shortstop B.J. Upton, the second pick in the 2002 draft, has been working out at the Naimoli complex and is looking forward to working alongside Rey Ordonez this spring.

"It will be a good experience for me," the 18-year-old Upton said. "Obviously he's a veteran and been around a while. He's just a great shortstop. It will be fun to watch and learn from him."

STILL WAITING: Pitcher Jesus Colome was delayed leaving the Dominican Republic on Friday, but was expected to arrive in town after Saturday's workout. Pitcher Gerardo Garcia is expected to be in camp today, but catchers Angel Pena and Pete LaForest still are delayed by visa problems.

ODDS AND ENDS: Outfielders Josh Hamilton and Ryan Jackson reported, bringing the number of noncatcher position players in camp to 13. The first full-squad workout is Wednesday. ... FanFest continues from noon to 4 today at Tropicana Field. Among the players scheduled to sign autographs are outfielder Rocco Baldelli and third baseman Aubrey Huff from 12:30-1:30, Hamilton and pitcher Dewon Brazelton from 1:30-2:45 and pitchers Joe Kennedy and Nick Bierbrodt from 2:45-4.


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