By JOHN ROMANO
© St. Petersburg Times, published February 25, 2001
ST. PETERSBURG -- It looked like a front office staff meeting behind the batting cage on field No. 3 Saturday. Most of Tampa Bay's top officials were gathered there to watch Jesus Colome throw batting practice for the first time this spring.
The young right-hander did not disappoint, displaying a live fastball and leaving an impression on the few hitters he faced.
"He throws hard. And he doesn't just throw it hard and straight, he throws hard with movement," outfielder Derrick Gibson said. "If you don't have your hands ready, you'll be jammed pretty much every time."
Colome, acquired from Oakland in the Jim Mecir trade, likely will start the season at Triple A, but is considered a future closer in the majors.
"He's got a live arm," catcher Mike DiFelice said. "When you've got a guy throwing that hard, you would think the ball would be straight as an arrow. But he threw balls that cut a little bit and sunk a little bit. I guess whatever he's been touted for, he has that to offer."
ON HIS SHOULDER: He has waited most of his life to come to spring training with a major-league team, so Jace Brewer figures he can wait a little longer before actually taking part in all of the drills.
The Rays' fifth-round draft pick out of Baylor, Brewer had shoulder surgery in November to repair a tear in his rotator cuff. Although he can take batting practice and field grounders, he has not been cleared to throw.
"I'm ready, but I know I have to be patient. If I don't, then I'll be set back longer, longer, longer," Brewer said. "So I'm going to do what they tell me to do and keep being patient."
The shoulder bothered Brewer last year at Charleston during his first pro season and he spent time on the disabled list. The plan in the off-season was for arthroscopic surgery to clear up minor problems in his shoulder, but doctors discovered a problem with his rotator cuff during the procedure.
"I didn't know there was anything wrong with the rotator cuff until after," Brewer said. "That delayed the rehab. It pushed me back another month and a half or two."
Brewer hopes to be ready to go by the time the minor-league season starts.
PLAY NOW, PAY LATER: Wilson Alvarez is about to join the growing ranks of Rays veterans who have deferred a portion of their salaries. Alvarez, who will make $9-million this season and $8-million in 2002, said he did not know the details but has agreed to defer a portion of his salary each of the next two seasons.
"I want to win. I'm here. I want to stay here," Alvarez said. "If that's going to bring more players here I'll be happy to do that."
General manager Chuck LaMar said the team is not freeing up money for any particular move, but said the deferral makes business sense for the organization and the player. Greg Vaughn, Juan Guzman, Fred McGriff, Gerald Williams and John Flaherty agreed to deferrals in the past.
CONTRACT TALKS: The Rays agreed to terms on one-year contracts with Bobby Smith and Steve Cox.