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Neagle enthused with form in return
By MARC TOPKIN
Published March 6, 2005
DUNEDIN - The fastball rode in. The curveball broke away. The pitcher smiled. And the manager noticed.
Saturday was a good day for Denny Neagle, the veteran left-hander trying to restart his career with the Rays.
Neagle, 36, breezed through two innings in his exhibition debut, allowing two singles (one an infield grounder) while throwing 27 pitches to eight Blue Jays. More important, for maybe the first time this spring, he looked like he could be a part of the rotation.
"He can pitch," manager Lou Piniella said. "He located, he was ahead of the hitters, he had a little movement, he threw ground balls. He did just about everything you'd want to see. So now we'll just keep stretching him out and see what happens."
Neagle, who hasn't pitched in a game since July 2003 due to elbow and shoulder surgery, couldn't have been more pleased.
"To come out and feel like I could locate every pitch and have the command I had, I've got to feel good," Neagle said.
ON THE OTHER HAND: Rookie Scott Kazmir, who has a good shot at a starting job, had a rough day, throwing 45 pitches (25 balls) in 12/3 innings. He walked three and gave up an unearned run as the result of Roberto Alomar's error, though he didn't allow a hit and did earn the win.
"My mechanics were just all out of whack," Kazmir said. "There were some pitches where I was just like, "What am I doing?' It's stuff to work on."
GAME DETAILS: Julio Lugo had a productive day with a single, a double, a triple, two stolen bases and two runs scored as the Rays beat the Jays 8-4. ... Aubrey Huff returned after missing Friday's game with an upset stomach, going 1-for-5 and hitting into two double plays. ... Dee Brown broke open a close game with a three-run homer in the sixth off struggling Billy Koch. ... John Webb looked sharp, striking out four in two innings. ... Franklin Nunez struck out the side but allowed a ninth-inning home run.
TUNING IN: After two days of mock broadcasts, the new radio team of Andy Freed and Dave Wills debuts today on 1250-AM. "We have a very simple philosophy - crank it up and have a good time," Freed said.
Doing practice games allowed the pair to get familiar with the Rays and each other.
"We did nine mock innings today, and it was 100 percent better than (Friday), and (Friday) was good," Wills said. "It's very, very comfortable."
SECOND TO NONE: The Rays brought in Alomar to play second, but Jorge Cantu continues to impress by hitting the ball hard. Saturday's 1-for-4 ran his overall spring totals (including the intrasquad and Navy games) to 10-for-15 with three doubles. "He doesn't want to concede anything," Piniella said.
POISED AND READY: Dewon Brazelton has been one of the most impressive pitchers in camp and is eager to make his exhibition debut today.
"It's another year of maturity," Brazelton said. "I'm not all the way there, but I know what I can do and what I can't do, and the things I can do I know why I can do them."
"B" ROLL: A 9:30 Sunday morning B game doesn't usually attract much attention, but today's game in Lakeland features two of the top four picks from the June draft, with No. 2 Justin Verlander pitching for Detroit and No. 4 Jeff Niemann for the Rays. "Should be fun," Niemann said.
MISCELLANY: To commemorate the 10-year anniversary of the awarding of the franchise, fans at Wednesday's game will get poster cards of the front page of the Times from March 10, 1995. ... Players union chief Don Fehr will make his annual visit Friday. ... Managing general partner Vince Naimoli will present a $2,500 check from the Rays of Hope Foundation to the Rays wheelchair softball team before today's game.