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White will learn against Eckerd

By MARC TOPKIN, Times Staff Writer

© St. Petersburg Times, published February 24, 2003

ST. PETERSBURG -- The continuing education of right-hander Matt White includes another exhibition season-opening start against a college team.

White, a 24-year-old prospect, will start Friday's game against Eckerd College at Progress Energy Park.

It will be the third time in six years White, who signed with the Rays out of high school in November 1996 for a then-record $10.2-million bonus, has faced a college team. He pitched against Florida State before the 1998 inaugural season and Notre Dame in 2001.

"I'm thinking of petitioning the NCAA for college credit for this," White said. "Try to get something toward my degree."

White, who has been taking classes at South Florida, said his recovery from May 31, 2001, shoulder surgery is just about complete and he feels good on the mound.

"My velocity is coming around," he said. "It's not quite there yet, but once you get in a game and get your adrenaline going, that's the true test."

Scheduled to follow White against the Division II Tritons are Delvin James, Cedrick Bowers, Wayne Gomes, Travis Phelps, Carlos Reyes, John Frascatore and Jesus Colome.

The Rays are 5-0 against college teams in openers, including three shutouts.

AND FURTHERMORE: Jason Standridge will start the major-league exhibition opener against Toronto on Saturday, with Luis De Los Santos also scheduled. ... Jim Parque, impressive in his bid for a starting job, will start Sunday against the Yankees in Tampa, with Steve Parris also scheduled.

RAY VS. RAY: The team will wrap up the Naimoli complex portion of training camp with a seven-inning intrasquad game at 11 a.m. on Thursday. Victor Zambrano and Dewon Brazelton, two likely members of the rotation, are the scheduled starters, with most of the young position players expected to be in the lineups. Triple-A manager Bill Evers and Double-A manager Charlie Montoyo will run the teams. Parking and admission are free.

CROWDED HOUSE: Having 72 players in camp has created some logistical problems, and manager Lou Piniella is ready to do something about it. Piniella plans to make the first cut after the first week of exhibitions, around March 6, and it will be a hefty one. "It'll take a while," he said. Until then, the Rays will use Progress Energy Park and the nearby Huggins-Stengel complex for pregame work when the team plays at home, and work out in two morning shifts before road games.

READ THE BOTTOM LINE: Jared Sandberg was among the first group of players to visit with sports vision specialist Dr. Bill Harrison, who was brought in to work on things such as dynamic visual acuity, depth perception, aiming accuracy and eye muscle training. Sandberg said there were exercises involving picking out items against backgrounds of different color and light and tracking objects: "It's kind of hard to explain, but it was good stuff. They gave me two CD-ROMs, which I call games, that are exercises to do at home."

MISCELLANY: Piniella said "great work" by Dan Moeller's grounds crew allowed the Rays to get all work in despite Saturday's heavy rain. ... Pitching coach Chris Bosio said veteran reliever Mike James has been "a pleasant surprise."

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