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Two more pitchers come aboard

By MIKE READLING and MARC TOPKIN

© St. Petersburg Times, published March 29, 2001


ST. PETERSBURG -- Rays general manager Chuck LaMar hinted all spring at the possibility of picking up relief pitching help. Wednesday afternoon he made it a reality.

The Rays agreed to terms with recently released Ariel Prieto and acquired Mike Judd from the Dodgers for a player to be named or cash. Both players will head straight to the Tampa Bay bullpen.

"We're trying to improve our bullpen as much as we can and these are two new guys into the mix," Rays manager Larry Rothschild said.

Prieto, 31, pitched for Oakland last season, compiling a 1-2 record in eight games after being called up from Triple-A Sacramento. On May 8, he made his first major-league appearance since having Tommy John surgery on his right elbow in 1999.

Prieto signed with Cleveland during the off-season and was released this week. With the Indians this spring, the former Cuban national team pitcher had no decisions, two saves and 1.29 ERA in four outings.

"I'm trying to pitch in the big leagues again," said Prieto, who will make his Rays debut today against Toronto. "Now Tampa Bay is giving me the opportunity. Hopefully it works out for me."

Judd, 25, appeared in one game for the Dodgers last season, giving up seven runs in four innings. This spring the right-hander has given up three earned runs on 10 hits in 11 innings, with six walks and three strikeouts. Judd has a 3-2 career record in the majors.

"One of our scouts saw him the other day, and he threw the ball well," Rothschild said. "He threw three (types of) pitches for strikes and had good stuff across the board."

The main task for both pitchers will be to give Tampa Bay experience and longevity out of the bullpen. Travis Harper is a young No. 5 starter, and Wilson Alvarez and Juan Guzman are going to start the season on the disabled list, putting more pressure on the relievers.

The 40-man roster is full, so when Prieto is added today, the Rays will make another transaction to make room.

GAME RECAP: The Rays lost 8-0 to the Red Sox. Boston ace Pedro Martinez pitched liked you would expect, allowing four hits in four shutout innings. Tampa Bay starter Jason Standridge pitched like a prospect, flashing promise while allowing seven runs (five earned) in less than three innings. ... Former Ray Rolando Arrojo pitched two hitless innings for Boston, and two other relievers blanked the Rays in the final three. ... It was the first time the Rays were shut out this spring.

VAUGHN RESTING: Rothschild has been using leftfielder Greg Vaughn as a designated hitter lately in an attempt to rest Vaughn's arm before the season starts.

Vaughn said the shoulder soreness is a "minor flare-up" typical of spring training and is getting better every day.

"I'm trying to get him rest while I can," Rothschild said. "Once the season starts, I don't know where that's going to be. He's thrown the ball the last couple days and felt good doing it. It's just a question of when I want to put him back in the lineup and when he feels good enough. It's not an injury of any sort. I'm just making sure he's where he should be when we start the season."

COLOME HAMSTRUNG: Pitching prospect Jesus Colome is sidelined in minor-league camp with a sore right hamstring and may not be ready to start the season at Triple-A Durham next week. "We're going to err on the side of caution," assistant general manager Scott Proefrock said.

CONTINUED RECOVERY: Alvarez, recovering from rotator cuff surgery, was scheduled to pitch live batting practice and a simulated game today. Guzman, also recovering from rotator cuff surgery, pitched Wednesday in a minor-league game.

MINOR START: Opening day starter Albie Lopez will start a Triple A game at 1 p.m. today at the Naimoli complex in St. Petersburg. The rest of the Rays will play the Blue Jays at Dunedin Stadium. Travis Phelps gets his first start of the spring. Toronto will choose a pitcher from its bullpen to start.

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