03/29/2003 6:46 PM ET
Notes: Piniella finalizes bullpen
ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- Lou Piniella has been pleasantly surprised with the performance of his pitching staff most of the spring.
|By Paul C. Smith / MLB.com
The rotation has three lefties who throw several different pitches at varying speeds, and includes a couple of veterans along with a couple of very young guys.
"We've put together a nice mix," Piniella said. "If the guys stay healthy, we should be in good shape."
The bullpen is completely made up of young pitchers and will have two lefties and five right-handers. There are hard throwers (Jesus Colome, Seth McClung, Bobby Seay), control artists (Lance Carter, Travis Harper), a sidearm/three-quarters thrower (Mike Venafro) and one guy who has not been pitching long but has very good "stuff" (Jorge Sosa).
"It's a very nice combination," Piniella said.
Colome has learned to slide-step and looks like a different pitcher from last season. He will have the first shot at replacing former closer Estaban Yan.
"Colome has had a nice spring," Piniella said. "We'll use him in short roles, depending on who we play."
Sosa made the pitching staff as the 12th man and will pitch in middle and long relief. Piniella said he sees new-addition Venafro as a one-batter, specialty lefty.
The pitching staff is set, Piniella said, but there still may be moves made with the rest of the team until late Saturday night.
"It could go to midnight or possibly even later," Piniella said. "We might still see a change."
The Rays continue to hunt for a right-handed batter and they are not picky about what position he plays.
The skipper speaks: "Yes, I do remember my first (Opening Day). It was in Kansas City in 1969. I went 4-for-5 and we won a ballgame." -- Piniella.
Roster reduction: After the game on Saturday, the Rays made eight moves. They selected OF Rocco Baldelli from Single-A Bakersfield along with LHP Jim Parque and RHP Steve Parris from Triple-A Durham. The moves put those three players on the 40-man and 25-man rosters. They also reassigned C Hector Ortiz to minor league camp. Designated for assignment were IF Hector Luna, OF George Lombard and LHP Hans Smith. The Rays also signed veteran infielder Terry Shumpert to a one-year Major League contract.
Around the horn: Shumpert had been in camp with the Dodgers but was released from a minor league contract on Friday. He is expected to back up second base, third and short. ...Luna is a Rule 5 player who had to be designated for assignment before being offered back to the Indians for $25,000. ...Both Piniella and general manager Chuck LaMar said there may be more deals made before midnight Saturday. ...Carl Crawford led the Majors in stolen bases this spring with a team-record 10. ...Damian Rolls went 3-for-3 on Saturday and finished with a team-high batting average of .428. ...Fifth starter Parris will throw on Sunday in a minor league game at the Raymond A. Naimoli Complex in St. Petersburg. ... Travis Lee's nine doubles this spring set a team record.
Fantasy tip: Right-hander Carter will be a setup man to start the season but is a good pitcher to keep in reserve. He will be next in line if Colome falters. And the Rays are likely to play a lot of close games again this season, so Carter should get some wins.
Weather report: It was sunny and hot (84 degrees) on Saturday afternoon in Dunedin. The forecast is for rain Saturday night and Sunday morning but the Rays are moving indoors anyway.
Coming up: The Rays will work out at Tropicana Field on Sunday from 3-4:30 p.m. The Red Sox will work out from 5-6:30 p.m. The workouts are closed to the public.
Paul C. Smith is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.