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Lamb stands out, but for how long?

By JOHN ROMANO, MARC TOPKIN

© St. Petersburg Times, published March 1, 1999


ST. PETERSBURG -- The game was short and sweet for David Lamb.

The rookie infielder acquired from Baltimore in the Rule V draft was a standout in a six-inning intrasquad game at the Devil Rays spring training complex.

Lamb made three impressive defensive plays at shortstop and drove in the only run with a double on a hit-and-run play.

"The first day, you're expecting one or two balls hit at you," Lamb said. "I pretty much had to go through every play today. Luckily, I made them all. That's a confidence booster."

Lamb gives the Rays added infield depth, but he also poses a pleasant problem. The Rays have room for one utility infielder and Aaron Ledesma filled that role splendidly in 1998.

The chance of Ledesma and Lamb making the team in 1999 is slim.

"When you pick apart the roster, you can see what the odds are," manager Larry Rothschild said. "We'll have to see how things go."

Where things get sticky is Lamb's status as a Rule V draft pick. If he does not stay on the big league roster all year, he has to be offered back to the Orioles.

So the Rays will have to decide whether to keep both (doubtful), trade one (possible) or send Lamb back to Baltimore (also possible). In the meantime, GM Chuck LaMar is enjoying the added competition and depth.

"We've always liked David Lamb's ability. We think he's capable of plying second, short and third base and he's a switch-hitter who can put the ball in play," LaMar said. "This gives us the opportunity to have more depth and enhances the opportunity for a trade, should one arise."

WINDS OF CHANGE: Not that pitchers need any extra help early in spring, but the wind was blowing in for the first intrasquad game. The 11 pitchers allowed four hits. "I guess Willy (pitching coach Rick Williams) is in control of the elements," Rothschild said. "The pitching coach ruled today; he got the wind blowing in. It had been blowing out every day until today."

The game was scheduled to go six full innings, but was stopped after the top of the sixth because the visiting team was down a reliever when John LeRoy went home with the flu.

OUCH: Billy Ashley was scratched from the intrasquad game because of a sore groin. "It's not quite a pull," Ashley said. "It's precautionary."

GAME BOYS: The lineups for today's noon intrasquad game are a bit more familiar. LHP Wilson Alvarez will start and throw two innings for one team, and other scheduled pitchers include Roger Bailey, Scott Aldred and top left-handed prospect Bobby Seay. Paul Sorrento, Mike DiFelice, Ledesma, Bubba Trammell, John Flaherty, and Bobby Smith are scheduled to play. So too is non-roster invitee Julio Franco, the 37-year-old former AL batting champ. Admission is free.

MONEY MATTERS: OF Rich Butler and RHP Julio Santana agreed to terms on one-year contracts. Ten players remain unsigned, and LaMar said the team would renew their contracts if there are no deals by Tuesday.

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