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Veteran advice: shun steroid talk

ST. PETERSBURG - The Devil Rays held a closed-door, players-only meeting Thursday morning. It was short (less than 15 minutes) but to the point.

By TOM JONES, MARC TOPKIN
Published February 27, 2004

ST. PETERSBURG - The Devil Rays held a closed-door, players-only meeting Thursday morning. It was short (less than 15 minutes) but to the point.

Reliever and major-league veteran Todd Jones called the meeting to remind the relatively young team to watch what it says to the media, particularly regarding the hot-button issue in baseball: steroids.

"If you don't know what you're talking about, then you shouldn't talk about it," said Jones, who was open about the details of the meeting. "This thing (steroids) has blown up, and it's the players who are chumming the waters. And the media isn't going to quit asking until they get names.

"Well, this is about the integrity of the game. I just told the guys to respect the game. If we keep talking about this, we're headed down a dangerous path."

The meeting came a day after Colorado pitcher Turk Wendell suggested Giants slugger Barry Bonds has taken steroids.

Jones did not talk specifically about Wendell and said the meeting wasn't mandated by the players' association, but he said he couldn't understand why players would call out other players, especially if they had no proof.

"Why would you do that?" Jones said. "Unless you actually saw a guy using steroids, how could you accuse someone? Even still, players need to respect the game. We all need to respect it."

Jones said the talk has turned into a witch hunt. If a player performs well or works out, he is targeted as a possible steroid user.

"We're going to get to the point where we are going to have nothing but lemon wedges and water in the clubhouse because of the accusations," Jones said. "We, as players, just need to be aware of what we're talking about before we start talking to the media. We had this meeting just to remind everybody of that."

PITCHING IN: Chad Gaudin and veteran Paul Abbott were pitchers who drew praise from manager Lou Piniella for their performance in Thursday's batting practice sessions.

Gaudin is off to a good start in the competition for a job in the bullpen.

"Gaudin came to camp in pretty good shape and it's shown here early," Piniella said. "He's certainly ahead of the hitters."

Abbott, competing for a rotation spot, has shown good command and no signs of health problems.

"Abbott threw the ball well again today," Piniella said. "The encouraging thing with Paul is that he's feeling good after he throws. He's had some health issues, but he's throwing the ball free and easy. The ball's coming out of his hand well."

OUCH: The first injury of spring was a minor one: Rocco Baldelli split his lip during a bunting drill. "I'm fine," Baldelli said. "The ball bounced up off the plate."

ZIM'S WAY: Don Zimmer made his first extended address to the players, walking the team around the bases for a lesson in baserunning. "He's awesome," catcher Toby Hall said. "The bottom line is that we can win a lot of games by baserunning."

And did it seem at all odd to have a 73-year-old coach talking about baserunning?

"Not at all," Hall said. "He's the one with the most knowledge and the most experience."

MISCELLANY: The Rays will play intrasquad games 9 a.m. Monday and 9:30 Tuesday at the Naimoli complex. ... Managing general partner Vince Naimoli was back at camp after meeting in New York with MLB officials about the upcoming Japan trip and talking briefly with prospective new partner Stuart Sternberg. ... Naimoli and outfielder Carl Crawford will participate in opening ceremonies for Tampa's Belmont Heights Little League 6 tonight. ... Reliever Lance Carter will throw out the first pitch at Saturday's opening of the Fossil Park Little League in St. Petersburg.

[Last modified February 27, 2004, 07:35:42]

Today's lineup
>
TOM JONES, MARC TOPKINVeteran advice: shun steroid talk



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