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Easley suddenly center of attention

By MARC TOPKIN
Published May 31, 2003

ST. PETERSBURG - With two hits and one RBI over 13 spaced-out May appearances, Damion Easley hadn't done much to be noticed lately.

Then Friday he got three hits and knocked in three and ended up in the middle of the Devil Rays' 8-6 victory.

Easley delivered the Rays' first run with a two-out single in the second, then came through with a two-out, two-run single that tied the score in the sixth.

"It lets you know it's still in there," said Easley, the 33-year-old veteran infielder. "It's good to get back-to-back starts. It helps you relax."

Easley has played sporadically over the past month, and he hasn't made much of a case for himself when he has, going 2-for-39 since April 22 with just one RBI.

"The cold side? He was a little bit on the frigid side," manager Lou Piniella said. "Let's hope this gets him going. Sometimes success is the best confidence booster."

ROSTER SHUFFLE: With next week's game under NL rules, the Rays may shuffle their roster to add a 12th pitcher, with Steve Parris a possibility to join the bullpen.

"You don't have the DH, so that gives you an extra bench player," Piniella said. "Five players sitting on the bench is enough. You probably need the extra pitcher more than you need the extra player."

Parris, on the disabled list since May 7, is scheduled for a three-inning simulated game at the minor-league complex this morning. If all goes well, he could rejoin the next team week as a long reliever. "I'm ready to go," Parris said.

HMMMMM: With the Rays heading out for interleague play, Piniella said he likes the conveniences of Houston's Minute Maid Park, which has a retractable roof, air conditioning and natural grass. "It's something that would work in this area very well," he said.

GET DOWN: Two unsuccessful sacrifice bunts Thursday sent Carl Crawford to the batting cage for extra work Friday. Crawford, one of the league's fastest players, said his biggest problem is being in too much of a hurry.

"There's no excuse for not getting the bunt down, none at all," Crawford said. "I'm always trying to rush to bunt for some reason. I've got to learn to not do that."

PITCHING IN: Lefty reliever Bobby Seay, out since April 23, will pitch one inning in an extended spring training Monday. ... Piniella said though he saw some improvement in Victor Zambrano on Thursday, "there's a ways to go."

SILENT TREATMENT: Piniella said there wasn't any one reason he stayed behind closed doors after Thursday's frustrating 2-1 loss: "I just didn't feel like talking to the media."

AN A FOR AL: Reliever Al Levine has a streak of 16 scoreless innings, two-thirds of an inning shy of Zambrano's team reliever record and two innings short of Rolando Arrojo's overall record.

SMILE TODAY, DONATE SUNDAY: Today is Photo Day, with fans invited on the field to take pictures with players and coaches from 4:30-5:15 p.m. Gates open at 4:15. ... Sunday is the Rays Wives fifth annual Canned Food Drive benefiting Metropolitan Ministries. Fans donating five or more cans of nonperishable food get a voucher for an outfield ticket to a June 10-12 game.

MISCELLANY: Lance Carter has a win or save in 15 of the team's 21 victories. ... With Rays officials watching, potential No. 1 draft pick Rickie Weeks homered and drove in three to lead Southern University to a 5-3 NCAA region win over Southern Mississippi. ... Friday's paid crowd of 9,574 was the second-largest of the month. ... Rookie sensation Rocco Baldelli didn't start but pinch-ran in the seventh and stayed in the game. ... Aubrey Huff leads the majors with 10 May home runs. ... Rays have played a major league-high 33 games decided by one or two runs, going 17-16. ... The Rays are hosting 500 coaches and guests from the six-county area for tonight's High School Coaches Appreciation Night. ... Outfielder Mark Quinn was released from Triple-A Durham.

[Last modified May 31, 2003, 01:45:14]

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