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Piniella eager for bonding to begin

Published February 20, 2004

ST. PETERSBURG - Five days of workouts for pitchers and catchers were fine, but manager Lou Piniella is excited about having his entire Devil Rays team together today.

"When you have everybody in camp it really gives you the feel of spring training," Piniella said.

"I look forward to it. You see the pitchers and catchers for a week or so and you look forward with anticipation to getting the rest of the team in here.

"We've got work to do. We've got some bonding to do as a team. We've had quite a few changes. It's a pretty good group of men we've brought in here. We have to get this thing to jell and we can have some fun with it."

Most of the 21 position players had checked in by Thursday, and Piniella expects all to be present for this morning's first full-squad workout.

"Get them on the field and get them started," Piniella said. "We didn't bring in any unknown quantities to camp. Basically, we have a pretty good idea what these players are capable of doing. It's just a question of getting them in shape and letting them come together as a team."

DOLLARS AND SENSE: Seven of the rostered players remain unsigned: Rocco Baldelli, Carl Crawford, Toby Hall, Travis Harper, Seth McClung, Bobby Seay and Victor Zambrano.

Players with less than three years of big-league service who are not eligible for arbitration have little negotiating power, and the Rays have a salary scale in place. If they don't agree to terms by March 2, the Rays will renew their contracts and eliminate a $20,000 incentive-bonus package.

PITCHING IN: Zambrano and Jeremi Gonzalez seem like sure bets for the rotation, and Mark Hendrickson and Doug Waechter are going to get long looks.

But Piniella is hoping for some serious competition from new additions such as Paul Abbott and Damian Moss.

"We need one or two of the guys we brought in to step up and pitch like No.3 starters," he said.

Of Abbott, he said: "We're hoping Paul comes in here and takes one of the starting spots. When he's healthy he can pitch. We have to keep him healthy, get him out there and let him compete."

Of Moss, he said: "We like the guy. We like the guy that pitched in San Francisco (with a 9-7 record) as opposed to the guy that (was 1-5) in Baltimore. We like that first guy better."

ALMOST READY: Pitcher Jason Standridge is working his way back into shape after September surgery to repair two partial tears in his shoulder and expects to be ready by the start of the season.

"I'm doing what everybody else is doing, just not at full speed," Standridge said. "I'm getting pretty close to being ready."

MISCELLANY: GM Chuck LaMar, hitting coach Lee Elia and senior adviser Don Zimmer will attend Saturday's Clearwater for Youth dinner at the Sheraton Sand Key. ... The Pinellas Association for Retarded Citizens group will make its annual visit Wednesday. ... The locker for Josh Hamilton, who was suspended until March 19 for violating baseball's drug program, was cleaned out.

[Last modified February 20, 2004, 01:31:57]

Today's lineup
MARC TOPKINNow batting ...
MARC TOPKINPiniella eager for bonding to begin

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DAMIAN CRISTODEROReasons to feel blue
DAMIAN CRISTODEROAndreychuk involved in power struggle

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