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Bell gets to open in rotation
By MARC TOPKIN
Published March 29, 2005
BRADENTON - Rob Bell felt pretty good about the way he rebounded from a rough first inning to post a decent outing Monday against the Pirates.
He felt even better when he learned that manager Lou Piniella had finalized the specific order of the rotation and that he would be the No.4 starter, behind Dewon Brazelton , Scott Kazmir and Mark Hendrickson , rather than the No.5 starter, who may open the season in the bullpen.
"That's a real up for me to hear that," Bell said. "I knew I would slot in, but there was still a bit of gray area where I was going to fit in."
Because of two off days in the first week of the season, the Rays have talked about going without a fifth starter until April 16 in Boston. Bell's concern was that spending two weeks in the bullpen could retard the progress he made during the spring.
"I was getting worried because you build your pitch count up and you kind of get ready emotionally to be part of the rotation from the jump," Bell said. "I think it's just the human, competitive part of the game where I want to get the ball and I want to pitch the first day, the second day, the third day, the fourth day.
"That fifth starter has to go to the bullpen or whatever they decide to do, and that's going to be two weeks I'm kind of sitting there and you kind of lose what you worked to gain for five weeks."
Under the rotation Piniella revealed Monday, Brazelton, Kazmir and Hendrickson will work in that order against Toronto in the opening series, with Bell pitching against Oakland on April 8.
The fifth starter, whenever needed, will be Hideo Nomo or Casey Fossum .
"We're just going right into rotation once the season starts, and once we go through the rotation we can make adjustments if we want to," Piniella said. "The rotation is just set for the first homestand."
TAKING THE FIFTH: Nomo could close in on the final spot with a strong outing against the Phillies tonight in Clearwater, though the Rays may wait to see Fossum pitch Wednesday before deciding.
Nomo has been increasingly impressive as the spring has gone on, capped by a strong six-inning outing Thursday when he allowed only two hits.
So what are the Rays looking for tonight?
"If he throws the ball like he did the other night in St. Petersburg, we'll be pleased," Piniella said. "He's gotten better. His velocity has gotten better and his command has gotten better. ... And he's in better shape."
In four spring games, Nomo is 1-1 with a 4.50 ERA, having allowed 12 hits (including four homers) in 14 innings while striking out six. His minor-league contract has a clause requiring the Rays to tell him by Wednesday if he will be on the team.
GAME DETAILS: With the wind gusting in excess of 20 mph, the teams combined for five home runs as the Pirates won 6-4. Travis Lee hit his first for the Rays and Jorge Cantu his second. ... Alex Sanchez went 3-for-4, raising his average with the Rays to .458 (11-for-24). ... Closer Danys Baez worked an impressive 1-2-3 sixth inning, throwing only seven pitches. ... The Rays made a handful of impressive defensive plays, including two running catches by Sanchez in centerfield and diving stops by third baseman Alex Gonzalez and second baseman Cantu. "Our kids can catch the ball," Piniella said. ... Rule 5 pick Angel Garcia had another rough outing, allowing two home runs in one inning. In six games, he is 2-1 with a 10.13 ERA, allowing 11 hits and six walks in eight innings.
SEAY WHAT: For a guy whose injury was supposedly caused by a bar stool, Bobby Seay didn't have much of a story.
The stool that fell on his left big toe Wednesday night and sidelined him for most of the week was actually in his kitchen, sitting by the breakfast nook.
"It was just a stool," Seay said. "I'm trying to take "bar' stool out of it."
FOR PRACTICE: The Rays released ticket prices for Saturday's 3:05 p.m. exhibition against Washington at Tropicana Field. Field box, lower box and lower club seats are $19; terrace box are $16; diamond club are $13; and outfield seats are $7. The upper deck will not be open.
MISCELLANY: Piniella said he had no updates from general manager Chuck LaMar on the team's efforts to upgrade the bench. ... With rain in Bradenton, the Rays were able to take batting practice at the Trop on Monday morning but couldn't use the infield. ... In preparation for Monday's opener, the Rays will hold a closed workout at 1:30 p.m. on Sunday at the Trop, followed by the Blue Jays at 4.