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By MARC TOPKIN and LEANORA MINAI
© St. Petersburg Times, published March 3, 2001
VIERA -- Star prospect Josh Hamilton was sore and shaken but not seriously injured after his family's 1999 pickup truck was struck by a dump truck Wednesday afternoon near his Manatee County home.
Hamilton, 19, had two days of tests and was cleared to resume workouts this morning and may be able to play in Sunday's game.
"He had some soreness in his knees, and in the initial exam they saw some inflammation in his back and that's where we really wanted to make sure everything was okay," general manager Chuck LaMar said.
Back specialist Dr. Tom Tolli examined Hamilton Friday in St. Petersburg and told team officials there were no problems. "Dr. Tolli said he was absolutely 100 percent," LaMar said.
Hamilton is considered the top outfield prospect in the organization and has an outside shot to make the major-league team this spring.
He was in the passenger seat and his mother was driving when their truck was struck in the left front and side by a dump truck that ran a red light and was traveling between 35 mph and 40 mph, according to the Florida Highway Patrol. Hamilton was not wearing his seat belt, officers said.
The driver of the dump truck, Vernon K. Allred, 50, received citations for running a red light, driving with an expired driver's license, no insurance and no registration. He was not injured.
Hamilton's father, who was in the back seat, and mother were treated for minor injuries at Manatee Memorial Hospital. "They were complaining of neck and back injuries, but there were no apparent cuts," FHP Lt. Mike Rushing said.
Hamilton is scheduled to receive the USA Today minor-league player of the year award before today's game. He also was named the No. 1 prospect in baseball by Baseball America.
BLOWN LEAD: Rebuilding the bullpen is a primary issue this spring, and the Rays didn't get off to a good start Friday, blowing a 6-0 lead and losing to the Marlins 7-6 on a one-out single in the ninth.
Bill Pulsipher gave up a three-run homer in the fourth to Mike Lowell, and Tony Fiore gave up three more runs after two were out in the seventh. That still got the Rays to the ninth tied, but Esteban Yan, the leading candidate for the closer's role, gave up the winning run.
Yan allowed a 3-and-1 leadoff double to B.J. Waszgis and, after an infield out, a run-scoring single to Rich Becker.
"I'm not going to make excuses the first day of spring training," manager Larry Rothschild said. "There's things that are going to get settled here, some issues that have to be decided, and we'll get through that. Hopefully the competition is good and people perform well and make the decisions tough."
On the positive side, Bryan Rekar and Travis Phelps each threw a pair of spotless innings, Ben Grieve had three hits, and Mike DiFelice homered.
DOUBLE VISION: Billy Hatcher was at his usual post Friday coaching third. To the casual observer, it looked as if he was coaching first too. What happened is that first-base coach Jose Cardenal left his jersey back in St. Petersburg, and the best he could do was borrow an extra from Hatcher. "First time in 40 years," said Cardenal, 57. "That's a sign I'm getting old."
PITCHING IN: Albie Lopez makes his spring debut in today's home opener against the Braves. Also scheduled to pitch are Doug Creek, Dan Wheeler, Paul Spoljaric, Jesus Colome and Tanyon Sturtze. ... Ace Greg Maddux will start for the Braves. Tampa Jesuit product Marc Valdes is scheduled to pitch in relief for Atlanta. ... Derrin Ebert will start the 10 a.m. "B" game against the Phillies at the Naimoli training complex (7901 30th Ave. N). Trevor Enders, Juan Rosario, Ronni Severino and Delvin James also are scheduled.
RAYS BITS: The team renewed the contract of Creek, who made $260,000 last season. That completes the signings of players on the 40-man roster. ... About 1,000 tickets are available for today's game. The box office opens at 10 a.m. ... Juan Guzman threw a 35-pitch batting practice session Friday with no problems. Wilson Alvarez threw 55 pitches off the mound but has "a ways to go" until he is ready to face hitters, Rothschild said.
The Rays play Atlanta at 1:05 p.m. at Florida Power Park (180 Second Ave. SE). Workouts start at 9:30 a.m. There also will be a free "B" game against Philadelphia at 10 a.m. at the Naimoli training complex (7901 30th Ave. N).