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For their own good
Fifty years ago, they were screwed-up kids sent to the Florida School for Boys to be straightened out. But now they are screwed-up men, scarred by the whippings they endured. Read the story and see a video and portrait gallery.
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Lou Piniella's order: Try to have some fun
By DAMIAN CRISTODERO
Published February 19, 2005
ST. PETERSBURG - Take it easy, Devil Rays manager Lou Piniella said he told his players on Friday. Enjoy the weather. Have some fun.
On the first day of training camp for pitchers and catchers at the Naimoli Complex, Piniella said he wasn't as concerned about seeing results as watching the process.
"I told them to work hard and get ready for a championship season," Piniella said.
"The other part of my message was that you're not going to impress here the first few days. Don't try to overdo and overextend yourself and hurt yourself because you're going to be in the training room. If you're in the training room, you're not going to help your team or yourself."
And with Dewon Brazelton, Mark Hendrickson, Rob Bell, Scott Kazmir, Hideo Nomo, Denny Neagle, Doug Waechter, Casey Fossum and Seth McClung fighting for five spots, missing time may mean missing a chance.
Asked about an opening day starter, Piniella said, "If I knew my opening day starter right now I'd be very pleased."
Well, how about a rotation?
"If I knew my starting rotation right now, I'd be very pleased," he said. "We have some good arms here. There are some jobs open and whoever wants to grab them is fine with me."
BALDELLI UPDATE: Centerfielder Rocco Baldelli, expected to be out of the lineup until after the All-Star break because of reconstructive surgery on his left knee, said he has been cleared to hit off a batting tee and throw into a net. He said he may begin those activities in the next few days.
WHATEVER IT TAKES: Neagle, a former 20-game winner who hasn't pitched in the majors since July 2003 because of shoulder and elbow surgeries, said he has no problem starting in the minors.
"If it takes me an extra three or four weeks in (Triple-A) Durham before I'm 100 percent, I'll do that," the lefty said.
Neagle, 36, said he feels refreshed, believes his arm is at major-league strength and his breaking ball is crisper than ever.
"Obviously my control is not where I want it to be right now, but it's the first day of spring," he said. "But health-wise, physically, rebound-wise, everything is where I need it to be. It's just a matter of getting out there and throwing and facing major-league hitters again."
MAKING THE CATCH: Catcher Tim Laker said it's difficult to tell much on the first day, but the 10-year vet, who caught Nomo and Neagle on Friday, said he was impressed.
"They looked like they were throwing 80 percent, nice and loose is all," Laker said. "You might get some of the young guys to come out firing, but those guys have been around long enough. They threw easy to get their work in and build a foundation."
Laker said he liked Neagle's off-speed stuff.
"He had a lot of movement on his changeup, a lot of movement on his sinker. He can be effective."
"For Nomo, it's getting the ball down in the strike zone," Laker said. "It makes his split that much more effective. And with his fastball down, it's hard to lay off that thing."
MISCELLANY: Outfielder Matt Diaz was released. ... Righty Jose Diaz, acquired from the Mets with Kazmir in the Victor Zambrano trade, was the only one of 39 pitchers and catchers not in camp. He is expected today from the Dominican Republic. ... Righty Jesus Colome, who ended last season on the disabled list because of a strained shoulder, said he threw without pain while playing in the Dominican Republic. ... Six position players reported and worked out: Baldelli, outfielders Joey Gathright, Brian Buchanan and Tom Goodwin, shortstop B.J. Upton and third baseman Brandon Larson. ... Nomo flew from Japan to Los Angeles to Orlando and then drove to St. Petersburg. The price of his business class ticket paid for by the team: $4,500. ... Chelsea Hatcher, daughter of first base coach Billy Hatcher, played Friday for Berkeley Prep in the Class 2A girls state soccer semifinals.
"It's an opportunity for us with the void in sports in this area. But it's up to us as an organization to seize the moment and win some ballgames." - LOU PINIELLA, Rays coach, on the canceled NHL season
Pitchers and catchers should be on the field at 9:30 a.m. Pitchers should begin throwing at about 10:30. Workouts last about three hours. Admission and parking at the Naimoli Complex (7901 30th Ave. N) is free.
DID YOU KNOW
Brian Sweeney has 31 Triple-A wins over the last three seasons, more than anyone else.