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Colome's outing is 'tremendous'

By MARC TOPKIN, Times Staff Writer

© St. Petersburg Times, published February 21, 2003


ST. PETERSBURG -- The brightest spot of the day Thursday might have been the bright smile on the face of Jesus Colome.

The 25-year-old reliever, still emotionally scarred from a Feb.6 car accident that killed three in the Dominican Republic, was impressive in his first batting practice session.

"Quick strikes, both sides of the plates, better mechanics," pitching coach Chris Bosio said. "A huge step in the right direction for him.

"And I think I even got a little smile on his face, which is a big thing. He needs a lot of that. It was a very, very good throwing day for (Colome). I loved it. Probably the most positive thing I saw all day was that young man on the mound and getting a smile on his face. Tremendous."

Bosio has tried to get Colome to stand more upright and more on his toes during his delivery, increasing the downhill plane of his pitches. So far, it seems to have worked.

"Just dirty," Aubrey Huff said. "He broke one of my bats."

"He looked very good, nice and easy," catcher Toby Hall said. "He's using whatever legs he has."

Colome, who suffered minor injuries and a sore back in the accident, said he felt good on the mound. "I'm sinking the ball more," he said.

SPRUCING UP: Team officials are discussing what managing general partner Vince Naimoli said would be significant enhancements to Tropicana Field, but have not made a final decision to proceed. "We have several bridges to cross," he said.

Naimoli, who revealed the plans at a breakfast speech Thursday, refused later to discuss the plans, which are believed to be more cosmetic changes, such as the painting of murals, than structural. "I'm sworn to secrecy," he said. "The answer is to show up on opening day and see."

MAKING IMPRESSIONS: Pitchers threw to the hitters for the first segment of batting practice and, naturally, were ahead. One hitter who caught manager Lou Piniella's eye was outfielder Josh Hamilton. "I'll tell ya, the ball jumps off Hamilton's bat," he said. ... Bosio said he is pleasantly surprised by veteran candidates for the rotation Jim Parque and Steve Parris. Both are continuing comebacks from 2001 shoulder surgeries. ... Marlon Anderson was the first hit batter of the spring, taking a Joe Kennedy curveball in the side.

HUFF LIVE: Wearing a wireless microphone during batting practice for an MLB Productions video crew, Huff tried to keep his language clean -- or cleaner, anyway.

"They said to do your own thing, and I was," Huff said. "If they don't want to use it, I don't know. I wore it once before, Toby and I did in New York. His came off in the first inning, mine came off in the seventh -- when I was 0-for-3."

OUCH: The first official injured Ray of spring was special assignment scout Eddie Bane, who split his lip when he was leaning too close to a batting cage and was hit by a foul ball.

MISCELLANY: Catcher Angel Pena, delayed by visa complications, reported late Thursday. Pete LaForest remains absent. ... Piniella said he has been impressed by infielder Hector Luna, the Rule 5 draft pick from Cleveland.

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