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A shot at a lefty is a godsend to Rays reliever Miller

CLEARWATER — LHP Trever Miller's outing Tuesday was short and sweet (two batters).

But to the veteran Rays reliever, merely facing a left-handed hitter was a treat. Miller, a left-handed specialist, threw to just his fourth southpaw this spring (walking OF Chris Snelling). He'll pitch today at the minor-league complex to, in part, get more work in. The 34-year-old doesn't want a repeat of last season, when he faced just two lefties during the spring with Houston and, as a result, "wasn't as crisp as I should have been."

"That's what spring training is for, to get guys in the roles they're going to be in," said Miller, who, in his career, has held lefties to a .240 average. "But there's less left-handed hitters out there, so it can be supply and demand."

GARZA STRONG AGAIN: RHP Matt Garza had another solid outing, going six innings while giving up four runs (three earned) and striking out three in a 4-2 loss to the Phillies. Other than a throwing error in the first that led to a run and a two-run homer by LF Geoff Jenkins, Garza was on target.

"Eighty-five pitches in six innings is outstanding, especially for me," Garza said. "I'm usually 100 pitches in five."

LONGORIA'S LONG BALL: 3B prospect Evan Longoria hit his team-high third homer, a solo shot off LHP Cole Hamels in the fifth inning. The home run ended Hamels' shot at a perfect game. "We weren't going to let that happen," Longoria quipped.

ZOBRIST FOR OPENER?: INF Ben Zobrist, nursing a broken left thumb, got his cast off Monday (a week ahead of schedule) and said he feels he'll be ready for opening day March 31 in Baltimore. The Rays had said Zobrist would be out a month, which would kick through the first week of the regular season. Manager Joe Maddon said he's not sure Zobrist will be ready and will wait until he is reevaluated by doctors later this week.

KAZ TAKES IT SLOW: Ace LHP Scott Kazmir said he feels "great" but is still unsure when he's going to throw his next bullpen session. Kazmir plans to follow the organization's plan of being cautious in his rehab of a left elbow strain. He agreed to take it slow after getting advice from veterans RHP Troy Percival and LHP Brian Anderson, who told Kazmir, "Dude, don't rush it." Kazmir said Anderson's career-ending elbow injury last week hit a little close to home.

"It kind of freaked me out," Kazmir said. "You see him come in and next thing you know, I ripped whatever or whatnot. It's like, 'Oh, maybe I should take a little bit more time.'  "

MISCELLANY: RHP Calvin Medlock was optioned to Triple-A Durham. … RHPs Dan Wheeler and Al Reyes threw at the minor-league complex. … INF Andy Cannizaro (back injury) had a workout outside and could know more today when he'll get into a game. … Special adviser Fred McGriff served as first-base coach, getting footage for a TV show he co-hosts, The BaysBall Show, on Catch 47.

Joe Smith can be reached at joesmith@sptimes.com.

A shot at a lefty is a godsend to Rays reliever Miller 03/18/08 [Last modified: Tuesday, March 18, 2008 10:33pm]
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