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Piniella still wants a left-handed bat
By MARC TOPKIN
Published March 14, 2005
ST. PETERSBURG - Manager Lou Piniella likes what he has seen from the players in camp. Now he would like to see the Rays add a proven left-handed hitter to the group.
"I think that's what we need more than anything," Piniella said. "We're talking about a frontline bat, about a guy who can come in here and swing it."
Ideally, the Rays would like someone who has power and could play the outfield occasionally and/or share at-bats with right-hander Josh Phelps at DH. They had a similar goal during the offseason and talked about players such as Baltimore's Jay Gibbons and Washington's Nick Johnson , but didn't make a deal.
The Rays seem to have a surplus of pitching, including some who are young and inexpensive, and it's likely a trade would come from their pool of relievers.
The Rays also are looking for another infielder, either a utilityman or a second baseman, to provide an alternative should Roberto Alomar 's back problems linger.
General manager Chuck LaMar said he expects to make at least one trade before opening day, and that the Rays had some "wiggle room" to add to their approximate $30-million payroll, but cautioned that it's unusual to make a big-name deal in the spring.
"The arms on our pitching staff have created the most interest because (other teams) know we're not going to give up the young position players," LaMar said.
"We're looking for some help. I don't want to make it out when I say that we're going to make a trade that it will be this blockbuster. This time of year, those guys aren't out there. You're looking for a veteran bat of some type. I don't think you can be too choosy whether it's a power guy or average guy, but we could use a left-handed bat. You're trying to make the best deal you can."
BELL TOLLS: Rob Bell helped himself in the battle for one of two remaining spots in the rotation with three perfect innings, with only one ball leaving the infield.
"I felt good about my approach," Bell said. "I said I was going to go out and be aggressive in the strike zone, not worry about the competition in camp, not worry about what the hitters did. I was basically just going to execute my game plan."
And what does he think of the competition, which includes Casey Fossum , Seth McClung , Denny Neagle , Hideo Nomo and Doug Waechter ?
"It's tough," Bell said. "They've got some guys here who have done some things in the past, they've got some guys who have done some stuff in the recent past. I can only speak about my situation, and I feel like I pitched well enough last year here to not be rendered anonymous at times. I can go out and compete just as well as anybody else in this camp and help this team win games."
RED ALERT: McClung also felt good about his three-inning effort, allowing one run on four hits, several on off-speed pitches he was tinkering with. "I felt like today I helped my cause," McClung said.
Piniella seemed pleased, too. "McClung was better," he said. "I was looking forward to seeing him pitch."
GAME DETAILS: The Rays were held to six hits and lost to Toronto 5-0. ... Mark Hendrickson , who has been named to the rotation, gave up four runs, three in the fourth after an error by shortstop Julio Lugo . ... The starters played nine innings for the first time. ... Third baseman Alex Gonzalez and first baseman Travis Lee both made diving stops.
SNOWBIRD: New general partner Stuart Sternberg came down from New York with friends and relatives to spend a few days watching games and visiting with team officials. "Just saying hi," Sternberg said.
MISCELLANY: Tuesday's game with Boston is sold out. ... Outfielders Danny Bautista , Tom Goodwin and Chris Singleton , all sidelined with minor injuries, should be back in action on Tuesday. ... The scoreless streak by Rays relievers ended at 12 innings. ... Carl Crawford 's plans for today's off-day? "Rest," he said.