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Pitchers thrilled to get started

By MIKE READLING and MARC TOPKIN

© St. Petersburg Times, published March 6, 2001


CLEARWATER -- Monday's game won't go down as the most memorable for either Paul Wilson or Ryan Rupe. Games during the first week of spring training rarely do.

But it could turn out to be one of the most important either one pitches this month.

Rupe and Wilson, both trying to get their careers on track after injuring their throwing arms, combined to pitch the first four innings in the Rays' 5-1 loss to the Phillies at Jack Russell Stadium.

Wilson started, allowing one hit and striking out one. Rupe relieved him in the third, and allowed one hit and struck out three.

"To see Ryan throw the ball like that was good," Rays manager Larry Rothschild said. "It's a real good day to see two starting pitchers throw the ball well like that, especially early in spring. They can build on that."

Both pitchers said they had butterflies.

"I kind of forget what to expect," Rupe said. "It was just the nervousness of competing again. I got out there warming up and threw five straight fastballs that 'Flash' (catcher John Flaherty) had to jump up to get."

Added Wilson: "You're anxious to get out there, a little nervous. It was about what I expected. I'm ready to compete, ready to battle."

STARTING TO CLOSE: Esteban Yan started the "B" game at the Carpenter Complex in hopes of strengthening his arm enough to assume the closer's role.

Yan pitched two innings, throwing 35 pitches, 22 for strikes. He allowed three runs on two hits with a walk and gave up a three-run, wind-blown home run to Domingo Cedeno. More important, Yan got ahead of seven of the nine hitters he faced with a first-pitch strike.

Tampa Bay lost 6-2.

BLOCKING THE PLATE: Toby Hall, trying to establish himself as a major-leaguer, made two solid defensive plays in the seventh inning of the "A" game. The first possibly saved a run in a 1-1 game; the second ended the inning.

Hall's first head-turner came after Marlon Anderson led off with a triple. With Anderson dancing off the base, Hall moved right to block a Ken Hill pitch in the dirt, keeping Anderson at third.

Anderson got caught in a rundown for the second out before Hall nailed Doug Glanville trying to steal third.

GIVING IT AWAY: The game went into the eighth tied before Philadelphia used a long single, a triple and a poor Rays relay to score four and win 5-1.

Johnny Estrada hit a wind-blown single off the wall to load the bases. Jason Michaels, a Jesuit High graduate, then tripled to score three before he scored on a throwing error by Ray Holbert.

"I think Ray got caught in between," Rothschild said. "When he got the ball, he was going to go to third base and then wheeled, then he was going to go home. He actually threw it right between the two. That's a mistake. You have to know when you get a hold of the ball where you're going to go with it, and that can't change. If it does, that's what happens.

Ozzie Guillen homered for the Rays, and Jason Tyner had two hits, including a double.

NOW PLAYING: Outfielders Greg Vaughn and Josh Hamilton were scheduled for their first game action of the spring today. Vaughn spent the first week doing extra work in the batting cages. Hamilton, sore after a car accident last week, played in Monday's B game, going 0-for-3.

HIGH FLYING: Rupe got his first look at the "new" higher strike zone, and you'd have to say he liked the view: "I got two (high strikes). I struck out Travis Lee with one, and I was like, 'That was nice.' Then I threw one up high that was borderline, and I'm not used to it and was about to started cussing at myself, and he called it a strike." PITCHING IN: Travis Harper is scheduled to start today, with Derrin Ebert, Bill Pulsipher, Victor Zambrano and Tanyon Sturtze also scheduled for work. ... Jason Standridge is scheduled to start Wednesday's 10 a.m. B game against the Blue Jays at the Naimoli training complex. ... Wilson Alvarez threw at the training complex and probably will make a few more mound sessions before throwing batting practice.

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