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Neagle expects to open in minors
By MARC TOPKIN
Published March 15, 2005
ST. PETERSBURG - When he signed with the Devil Rays last month, left-hander Denny Neagle said he would be willing to go to the minor leagues if necessary to continue working his way back into form.
After needing 50 pitches to get through three innings of a minor-league intrasquad game Monday, Neagle acknowledged that opening the season at Triple-A Durham would be the best move for him and the Rays.
"My honest assessment is that I don't think in two or three weeks I'll be ready to pitch confidently the way I can, the way these guys want me to," he said.
"I've kind of come to the realization that there's a pretty good chance I'm going to have to go down to Durham and get some more innings in. I wouldn't do myself or this organization any good if I was to try and rush this thing and go out there and pitch with 65-75 percent stuff and go out and get my brains beat in and lose some confidence and wonder if I'm still going to have it."
Neagle, 36, hasn't pitched in a big-league game since July 2003, having had Tommy John elbow surgery and shoulder surgery. It has been only 81/2 months since the shoulder surgery, and Neagle figures he needs another six weeks or so to fully recover.
"I feel like it will get there, no question," Neagle said.
Monday's outing, against veteran minor-leaguers and former major-leaguers, was typical of his spring work: good and bad. He allowed five hits, including a two-run homer to minor-leaguer Jeff Deardorff , walked one, hit one and threw a wild pitch.
Rays pitching coach Chuck Hernandez said no decisions have been made about Neagle, but it's obvious he needs more work.
"He's showing signs of rustiness," Hernandez said. "He's been out of the game a long time and his location is not where he needs it to be. He needs innings to get back to where he wants to be."
ON THE OTHER HAND: Hideo Nomo , the other veteran trying to revive his career with the Rays, showed signs of improvement in his four innings.
Nomo allowed hits to four of the first five batters (one when an outfielder fell; none particularly hard hit) then retired his last 10, showing a couple of his trademark nasty splitters among his 48 pitches.
"He pitched a lot better today," Hernandez said. "His velocity was 84-86 (mph) throughout the outing. Hopefully he'll continue to improve in that area."
Nomo said he wasn't as concerned with velocity as location. "I was interested in keeping the ball down and getting it in the strike zone," he said through an interpreter. "I think I did better than my last outing."
PLAYER MOVES: Pitchers Jason Hammel and Brian Stokes , who have been rehabilitating from injuries at the minor-league complex, were officially optioned to Double-A Montgomery, reducing the Rays' spring roster to 48.
TUNE IN: The Rays announced a four-year deal with Spanish Beisbol Network to broadcast all 162 games in Spanish on WZHR-AM 1400. Last year, only home games were carried in Spanish.
"We have learned that an important component to our success in the marketplace is reaching the Hispanic community with a Spanish language broadcast," said Dave Auker , senior vice president of business operations.
Enrique Oliu will return for his fifth season in the booth and will be joined by Jose Rafael Colmenares Anzola .
LEGAL MATTER: Players union chief Don Fehr said Neagle's bid to stop the Rockies from terminating his contract, and not paying him the remaining $19-million, looks good. "We think we have an extremely strong case, and we expect to prevail on it if it eventually goes to a hearing, which I expect it to," Fehr said.
MISCELLANY: Today's game with the Red Sox is sold out. ... Rocco Baldelli will sign autographs from 5-6 p.m. Saturday at a new Checkers Drive-In at 6200 Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. St. N, St. Petersburg. ... Outfielders Danny Bautista , Tom Goodwin and Chris Singleton , all sidelined with minor injuries, are expected back today.