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First cuts narrow bullpen field

By MIKE READLING and MARC TOPKIN

© St. Petersburg Times, published March 8, 2001


ST. PETERSBURG -- The Rays made their first cuts of the spring Wednesday, and the victims included two relievers who pitched in the big leagues last season, Mike Duvall and Tony Fiore.

Overall, the Rays shipped out 13 players, reducing their roster to a still-hefty 55. Infielder Jared Sandberg and outfielder Alex Sanchez were optioned to Triple A, outfielder Kenny Kelly was optioned to Double-A Orlando and 10 were reassigned to minor-league camp: pitchers Stevenson Agosto, Juan Rosario, Ronni Severino, Duvall and Fiore; catcher Yohanny Valera; infielders Ray Holbert and Josh Pressley; and outfielders Derrick Gibson and Norm Hutchins.

"It's early and there wasn't a lot of playing time for the guys that got cut, but we had to make some quick decisions and this was the only way," manager Larry Rothschild said. "Some of those guys will probably be back at some point. ... I'm not smart enough to say we made all the right decisions the first time around with the cuts; I think we did. It's early enough that you have to be aware what goes on and watch what they do when they go down."

The Rays have several slots open in the bullpen, but apparently neither Duvall, who was an expansion draft pick, or Fiore, who made 11 appearances, had much of a shot.

"We're down to where I need to use the innings, and although it's early I just couldn't see getting them in games, and to have them sitting around here waiting to get in games is not good for us or them," Rothschild said.

Infielder Jace Brewer will remain at the minor-league complex to continue to rehabilitate his right shoulder.

SEE FRED RUN: Fred McGriff apparently caught the Rangers off guard when he took off for second during the second inning. McGriff slid safely, dodging a late throw from catcher Mike Hubbard to complete the steal. Of course, you can't blame Hubbard for not being completely awake. McGriff has stolen three bases in the past two seasons and 10 in his three-year Tampa Bay career.

"I try to work on stuff like that in spring training. I wanted to see what kind of jump I could get," McGriff said. "It was fun. The fans were laughing, I was laughing, everybody was laughing."

WEDNESDAY'S ACTION: Russ Johnson hit a line drive up the middle to score Jason Tyner from second in the 11th inning as Tampa Bay defeated Texas 2-1 at Florida Power Park.

The Rays led 1-0 with two outs in the ninth, but Esteban Yan gave up three consecutive singles, including a blooper that dropped between second baseman Brent Abernathy, shortstop Mike Caruso and centerfielder Carl Crawford and a broken-bat single just over short, to let the Rangers tie the score. "Sometimes that happens," Rothschild said. "It looked like he was going to put the game away but it didn't happen." In Friday's opener, Yan gave up the winning run in the ninth inning.

Santos Hernandez may have entered the competition for a bullpen spot with a strong two-inning outing, allowing one hit and striking out three.

Bryan Rekar started, allowing one hit, walking one and striking out one in three innings. He is the fifth straight Rays starter not to allow a run.

The Rays dropped a "B" game to the Blue Jays 8-3. The score was tied heading into the final inning before Rosario allowed six runs on five hits. He struck out two, walked two and hit a batter in his only inning.

RAYS BITS: Friday's game with the Yankees is sold out. Several hundred berm area tickets go on sale at 10 a.m. ... Randy Winn will be away from the team for a couple days because of a death in his family. ... Sharon Robinson, daughter of Jackie Robinson, threw out the ceremonial first pitch. Earlier, she appeared at Perkins Elementary School. ... Albie Lopez starts against Cleveland today, with Dan Wheeler, Ken Hill, Jesus Colome and Tanyon Sturtze scheduled to pitch.

* * *

The Rays host Texas at 1:05 p.m. at Florida Power Park. Pregame workouts begin at 9:30. There also will be a free "B" game against Toronto at the Naimoli training complex (7901 30th Ave. N) beginning at 10.

Keep an eye on...

Texas' Alex Rodriguez, baseball's highest paid player after signing a 10-year, $252-million dollar contract during the off-season, will start today for the Rangers at Florida Power Park.

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