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Going through some minor adjustments

By TOM JONES
Published April 5, 2004

ST. PETERSBURG - Someday they hope to be with the Devil Rays, but for now, they start in the minors.

The journey for last year's No. 1 pick, Delmon Young, will start in Charleston, S.C. Young, beginning his first full season with the Rays organization, was assigned to the Class A South Atlantic League on Sunday as the Rays set their minor-league rosters.

At 18, Young is the youngest player on the Riverdogs roster.

Meantime, two of the Rays' brightest prospects will start the season at Double-A Montgomery. Shortstop B.J. Upton and outfielder Joey Gathright have been assigned to the Southern League. They will be joined by several players who saw significant time in the big-league camp this spring, including pitchers William Glen and Carlos Hines.

There was some thought Gathright might start the season in Triple A.

"Joey hasn't played that much at Double A," said Cam Bonifay, Rays director of player personnel and scouting. "If you look at his season last year, he played the whole first half in (Class A) Bakersfield and then he got called to Double-A (Orlando) and got hurt (after 22 games). We don't want to rush him (out of Double A). He still has a ways to go."

Triple-A Durham has a slew of players who spent time with the Rays last season, including pitchers Rob Bell, Dewon Brazelton, Jesus Colome and Travis Harper, catcher Pete Laforest, infielder Jared Sandberg and outfielder Jonny Gomes.

Bonifay is cautiously optimistic that the Rays organization is in the best condition ever.

"In some regards it is," Bonifay said. "In other regards, we feel we have work to do to make it better. We have some very fine position players, but we still have some gaps that we need to (fill in) to be a much stronger organization than we are now. The most important thing, though, is we got impact position players. We need time to get the depth stronger and deeper at every position of those type of players."

A BLISTERING START: Bonifay said St. Petersburg's Doug Waechter might start the season on the minor-league disabled list. He developed a dime-size blister on the middle finger of his right (throwing) hand. A decision could come Wednesday.

Waechter was sent to Triple-A Durham, but was expected to be called up this month when the Rays go from a four-man rotation to a five-man rotation.

Meantime, pitcher Jon Switzer likely will go on the disabled list because of tendinitis in his left shoulder.

TONY SAUNDERS AWARD: Josh Freemy, a senior at Olympia High in Orlando, has been named recipient of the Fourth Annual Tony Saunders Courage Award. The award is given by the Devil Rays to an area student-athlete who "best exemplifies the courage, character, competitive desire and fighting spirit" of the former Devil Ray who was forced to retire after twice breaking his arm while pitching. The winner receives a $2,500 scholarship from the Rays of Hope Foundation.

Freemy, a football player and wrestler, has diabetes that requires him to wear an insulin pump.

The runnersup: Lakeland High swimmer Will Hodges, Countryside's Justin Gregorich (football), Dunedin's Kyle Mills (baseball), Dixie Hollins' Diana Melcher (cross country, track, basketball), Plant's John Taylor (baseball), Armwood's Brandon McArthur (baseball), Brandon's Rashard Goff (football, wrestling), Northeast's Tanya Scaringe (basketball, cross country, softball), River Ridge's David Kondek (wrestling) and Brandon's Ryan Joyce (wrestling).

MISCELLANY: The Rays and Yankees are scheduled to work out today at Tropicana Field. The workouts are not open to the public. ... Leftfielder Carl Crawford will be available for a Web chat at 4 p.m. today on devilrays.com.

[Last modified April 5, 2004, 01:20:27]

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