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Relievers close down Sox offense
By DAMIAN CRISTODERO
Published March 13, 2005
FORT MYERS - The focus has been so sharp on the process of putting together the Devil Rays' starting rotation, the relievers have gone relatively unnoticed.
But with six scoreless innings during Saturday's 6-4 victory over the Red Sox at City of Palms Park, Tampa Bay relievers upped their shutout streak to 12 and took a little bit of the spotlight.
"A nice collection of arms," manager Lou Piniella said.
Boston led 4-2 after three innings. But Jeff Niemann, Chris Seddon, Angel Garcia and Franklin Nunez shut down the World Series champs on five hits with four strikeouts and four walks.
Shortstop B.J. Upton's eighth-inning home run tied it at 4. Catcher Pete LaForest's two-run homer in the ninth off Denney Tomori was the winner.
"A good ballgame for us," Piniella said. "Any time you play good against a good quality team, whether it's spring training or during the season, you've got to feel good. These kids are playing good baseball."
The day began with Piniella saying the fourth spot in the starting rotation (after right-hander Dewon Brazelton and left-handers Mark Hendrickson and Scott Kazmir) will go to a right-hander.
In the running: Doug Waechter, Hideo Nomo, Rob Bell and Seth McClung.
Waechter failed to make headway in his three innings, allowing four runs on five hits, including two home runs, with a strikeout.
Niemann, the Rays' top draft choice, made his first spring appearance and struck out one and walked one in two innings. Seddon walked two and struck out one in two innings.
Garcia survived the eighth thanks to a sharp double play started by third baseman Shane Halter and helped by second baseman Jorge Cantu's pivot. Nunez struck out two in the ninth, including Jeff Bailey looking to end the game.
"You got to be impressed with Niemann," Piniella said. "Seddon competed very well. The kid Garcia got the big double play ball and Nunez threw the heck out of the ball at the end."
FINE-TUNING: Waechter said he is ahead of where he was at this time last season and threw well. But he was hurt by location mistakes, especially the high changeup that David Ortiz turned into a three-run home run and a 4-2 Boston lead in the third.
"I thought my stuff was there. Just a couple of mistakes that shouldn't be happening," Waechter said. "That's something I'm going to have to change before I go into the regular season."
"It's good knowing it," Piniella said. "Now let's see some improvement the next time out."
GAME DETAILS: Niemann worked out of a second-and-third, one-out situation by getting David McCarty to bounce to the mound and Edgar Renteria to ground out to second. ... Catcher Toby Hall had two doubles and an RBI. ... Leftfielder Jonny Gomes tripled. ... DH Eduardo Perez had two hits and two runs. ... Boston's David Wells made his first start. He pitched two innings and allowed two runs on four hits.
INJURIES: Piniella said rightfielder Danny Bautista will get a cortisone shot in his sore right ankle and could play Tuesday. ... Outfielders Chris Singleton and Tom Goodwin are bothered by groin strains, though Singleton pinch hit. ... With second baseman Roberto Alomar out with a sore back and Cantu playing in his absence, infielders Halter and Luis Ordaz could get more time in utility roles.
MISCELLANY: Piniella said the team's biggest need is a good left-handed bat off the bench. Goodwin and Singleton, if healthy, could be in the mix. ... The Rays don't play Monday but Nomo, Denny Neagle, Travis Harper and Jorge Sosa will pitch at the Naimoli complex. ... The Red Sox announced they have sold 2.4-million regular-season tickets.