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First-stringers rough up rookie

By MARC TOPKIN, Times Staff Writer

© St. Petersburg Times
published March 12, 2003


SARASOTA -- Seth McClung's first outing against big-name big-league hitters turned out to be a learning experience: He learned that if you don't make good pitches, it's not a good experience.

The 22-year-old rookie gave up a tying home run to Ken Griffey and a two-run windblown shot to Adam Dunn in the pivotal sixth inning Tuesday as the Devil Rays lost to the Reds 6-5.

"I fell behind Mr. Griffey and Mr. Dunn and got the ball up, and they put it where they're supposed to," McClung said. "I was in position to make a couple better pitches and I didn't do it."

McClung, trying to jump to the majors after a half-season above Class A, hadn't allowed a run in his first four outings but had been pitching the final inning against predominantly minor-leaguers.

The Rays tried something different, bringing him in in the fifth when the regulars still were in and having him come back for a second inning. He also was throwing to regular catcher Toby Hall for the first time, leading to what McClung said was some "indecisiveness," and seemed to be throwing more breaking balls than before.

McClung got out of the jam starter Jim Parque left for him in the fifth but got into trouble with two outs in the sixth trying to protect a 3-2 lead. He gave up the homer to Griffey on a 1-and-1 pitch, walked Aaron Boone after being ahead 0-and-2, then gave up a long fly ball to Dunn on a 2-and-1 pitch that carried over the leftfield fence.

"It's going to happen, especially with the big boys," pitching coach Chris Bosio said. "You've got to locate the ball better.

"He was rushing a little bit today, but Seth is throwing the ball well. Days like this are going to happen with our young guys. What he does from this point on is really going to make or break him. Seth's had a good camp, and this is not going to tarnish what he's done this far, not at all."

FOR STARTERS: Parque was strong through four innings, then appeared to tire quickly, allowing a double, single and walk to start the fifth.

"I felt good for four," Parque said. "I haven't seen the fifth inning in like 10 years right now. As much as I hate to admit it, I did get a little tired out there, but it is spring training, and hopefully next time I can get through the fifth and go on to the sixth."

Parque, a 27-year-old who would be the veteran of the staff, is making a strong bid for a spot in the rotation, and manager Lou Piniella said his 50-pitch outing did nothing to diminish his chances.

"He was sharp for four innings," Piniella said. "He'll build some more arm strength. He's coming along just fine."

GAME DETAILS: The Rays led 1-0 on Damian Rolls' third-inning homer and 3-2 when Marlon Anderson and Carl Crawford had back-to-back triples in the sixth and Aubrey Huff added a run-scoring single. ... Crawford and Huff both were doubled off first base on fly balls. "I told the kids that about the third inning the umpires speeded up play today, but what they were doing is a little ridiculous," Piniella said. ... Jon Switzer and Jorge Sosa pitched well.

PICKY, PICKY: Piniella said the Rays hitters need to be more selective and force pitchers to work harder. Tuesday, Cincinnati's Ryan Dempster had three innings of fewer than 10 pitches.

"We're very undisciplined," Piniella said. "It's something I've asked the batting coach to address."

HAPPY TO BE HERE: Being in big-league camp already has made spring training special for St. Petersburg's Doug Waechter. Making it through the first cut, and being scheduled for his first A-game action today in Bradenton, has made it even better for the 22-year-old right-hander.

"It's been a great experience, an eye-opening experience," Waechter said. "It makes you realize it's a job and how hard you have to work."

When he came into the clubhouse Tuesday, he even had his own locker, no longer having to double up with Switzer. "I thought about still sharing with Switzer because it was good luck," Waechter said.

PITCHING IN: Dewon Brazelton starts the home game against Pittsburgh today, with Delvin James, Cedrick Bowers and Jesus Colome also scheduled. Victor Zambrano, very impressive to this point, starts the game at Bradenton, with Bobby Seay, Luis De Los Santos, Edgar Huerta and Waechter also scheduled.

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