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Non-roster invitees renew acquaintances

By MARC TOPKIN

© St. Petersburg Times, published February 28, 1999


ST. PETERSBURG -- They grew up in nearby small Florida panhandle towns, playing against each other in youth leagues and high school and together on the same American Legion team. Both attended Florida State and helped pitch the Seminoles into the 1992 College World Series. Each was an early-round draft pick. Both were in the majors by 1995, and out last season because of injury.

This spring, Roger Bailey and Tim Davis are together again.

Both are non-roster invitees, two pitchers trying to show the Rays they are ready to resume once-promising careers.

"It's been kind of neat with us both coming here," Davis said. "We'd always hoped that one day down the line we'd be reunited and get to play together."

Their life stories are similar, and even the most recent chapters aren't all that different. Bailey had decent success with the Rockies (18-19, 4.90 in parts of three seasons) before injuries from a spring training car accident rubbed out his 1998 season. Davis was a dependable reliever for the Mariners (42 games in 1994, 40 more in 1996), but was sidelined in June 1997 by a sore left elbow that eventually required ligament transfer surgery.

Both are healthy and battling for work. Bailey, a right-hander, has been impressive and is a contender for a spot in the rotation. Davis may have a tougher go, trying to emerge from a large group of lefties looking for a bullpen job.

Camp has been open just 10 days, but they already have been busy swapping tales.

Bailey says Chattahoochee, where he grew up, is larger than Davis' hometown of Bristol. "We had two (traffic) lights," Bailey said. "He had one."

Davis counters that his high school team, Liberty County, was superior to Chattahoochee. "We beat them," Davis said. "All the time."

And as if they didn't have enough to talk about, they can turn to two other former members of their FSU family -- visiting clubhouse manager Guy Gallagher and minor-league trainer Paul Harker.

"It's been kind of fun with all the reminiscing," Davis said.

TRADE TALK: The Rays will spend the first few weeks of the exhibition season assessing their needs and evaluating other teams' talent. After that, they just might make a deal, which would be their first since the November 1997 expansion draft. "I would be surprised if we don't make a trade during spring training," GM Chuck LaMar said. The Rays could have an excess of pitchers and outfielders and perhaps an extra catcher.

ON GUARD: Jose Canseco usually draws a crowd, and that can sometimes mean trouble. The Blue Jays informed MLB and Rays officials last season that a Miami woman had allegedly been stalking and harassing Canseco. Area police determined there wasn't much of a threat and there were no problems when the Jays played here. As a precaution, the Rays distributed the memo and woman's picture to their spring security staff.

MONEY MATTERS: The Rays have 12 unsigned players, including RHP Rolando Arrojo, but that won't be the case for long. Teams can unilaterally renew contracts starting Tuesday, and the Rays will act swiftly. LaMar says the team will implement its salary structure -- one way or the other -- by Tuesday night. Because these players don't have three years of big-league service, which brings arbitration rights, they have no recourse. They might even get less money because LaMar said some could be renewed at a lower rate, or without incentive clauses, than an original offer. "We think our salary structure for zero to three players is extremely fair," LaMar said. "If players don't want to take our offer, I have no problem renewing their contract."

TROP BOP: Toronto's Cecil Fielder says Canseco could be in for a record-setting season with half his games at Tropicana Field. "I'm telling you, if he keeps swinging like he's been swinging, hitting them in the air like that, he can hit 70 home runs in that ballpark," Fielder said. "No question. Hit a popup to left in that ballpark and it's gone."

HOO-RAYS: Tom Whaley joined the Rays as director of corporate sales, reuniting with sales/marketing VP Mike Veeck, his boss when he was assistant GM in St. Paul. . . . The team will celebrate Read Across America Day on Tuesday by having Aaron Ledesma, Dave Martinez, Fred McGriff, Bobby Smith and Paul Sorrento read to selected schoolchildren at the team training complex. . . . The St. Petersburg Area Chamber of Commerce's First Pitch Ball-B-Q is set for 4:30 p.m. Wednesday at the St. Petersburg Hilton. All players and coaches will be there. Tickets are $25; call (727) 895-6326 for info.

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