By MARC TOPKIN
© St. Petersburg Times, published March 5, 2001
LAKE BUENA VISTA -- Sunday's rainout cost Orlando native Paul Wilson a chance to pitch in front of his family and friends.
But after battling through injuries and rehabilitations for more than three years to get back to the majors last season, having a spring training start pushed back a day is not something over which Wilson is going to fret.
Basically, what Wilson wants is to be treated like any other pitcher getting ready for the season -- without concerns about his past health problems.
"Sure, I was looking forward to making some pitches today and figuring out out what I need to work on and what's there," Wilson said. "But any questions to me should be about what do we need to do to get the breaking ball better or what do we need to do to step up the fastball, not what do we need to do to keep him out there.
"And I think we're going there."
Under the revised plan, Wilson will start today against the Phillies at Clearwater, with Ryan Rupe pitching behind him. Bobby Seay, Ken Hill, Sean Bergman and Rusty Meacham are scheduled to work in relief.
Despite a dreary forecast, Braves officials were optimistic Sunday's game would be played, so the Rays made the 90-minute bus trip. They arrived shortly after 10 a.m., just as the heavy rain started. The game was canceled at 1 p.m., but the day wasn't a total loss because hitters worked out in the indoor batting cages.
"If you're going to get rained out, it's better early in spring training," manager Larry Rothschild said. "We still got a decent day of work in."
YAN EXTENDED: The Rays consider Esteban Yan the leading candidate to be their closer. But to get him better prepared for that one inning, they are going to have him do some extra work.
Yan is scheduled to pitch the first three innings of a B game against Philadelphia at 10:30 this morning at the Carpenter Complex and may be scheduled for another extended outing or two in an effort to increase his arm strength and velocity.
"I think Este a couple of times in spring is going to need to go three innings," Rothschild said.
Yan pitched the ninth Friday against the Marlins, giving up the winning run on two hits.
Jeff Wallace, Delvin James and Stevenson Agosto are also scheduled to pitch in the Bgame. Robert Person will start for the Phillies.
TIMELY FASHION: MLB vice president Frank Robinson gave a brief talk to the Rays about speeding up the game. Robinson touched on the basic points that have been emphasized for several years: batters should stay near the plate when stepping out of the box, pitchers should spend less time between pitches, managers should signal promptly for pitching changes and walk briskly to the mound. "They are little simple things that stop the flow of the game," Robinson said. "Every little bit helps. We think we can cut 10-15 minutes off the time of games." The Rays went about their business relatively quickly last season, their 2-hour, 55-minute average ranking third in the league.
"I think it's good they're making a concerted effort to communicate what they'd like done," Rothschild said.
VAUGHN PATROL: Outfielder Greg Vaughn likely will make his spring debut later this week, the result of a mutual decision to let him spend the first week of games working in the batting cages. "We're not in a big hurry right now, but the time's going to come when Greg's going to have to get ready," Rothschild said. Vaughn said he feels fine and won't have any problem being ready by opening day.
OLD FRIENDS, NEW FRONTIERS: Original Ray Dave Martinez enjoyed the chance with his old buddies, but there is no doubt he is excited by the opportunity that comes with being a Brave. "This is a great situation for me," Martinez said. "The reputation of this team, y'know is always, for the last 10 years they've been in the playoffs, the post-season. Hopefully this season they'll continue that success." Martinez has played more games, 1,799, than any other active player without appearing in the postseason, and has wondered if he would ever make it. "It crossed my mind, during the winter times especially," Martinez said. "Going into the season you always think, 'This is the time you're going to make it.' It's one of those things where I'm here now, I'm wearing a Braves uniform, and if we go out and play like we're capable of playing, they're going to get there again."
RAYS BITS: Wednesday's 10 a.m. B game against the Jays has been moved to the Naimoli training complex (7901 30th Ave. N). ... Leslie Stahl from CBS' 60 Minutes will be in town Tuesday to interview pitcher Matt White for a story about agent Scott Boras. ... Juan Guzman, recovering from shoulder surgery, had no problems during a 60-pitch batting practice session at the training complex.