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White's pro debut breaks no records

The debut came and went and Matt White didn't exactly look like a million bucks. Or 10.2-million.

But of course it was two meaningless innings in a spring exhibition game, and obviously the Devil Rays are looking at this investment with long-term profits in mind.

White, whose $10.2-million contract is the richest amateur deal in baseball history, had a so-so showing in his first pro appearance Sunday afternoon against Cardinals minor-leaguers.

White, 18, allowed the first five hitters to reach base and ended up yielding six hits, one walk and four earned runs in 1 innings.

"You can run through it in your head over and over to prepare yourself, but there is nothing that can equal actually stepping out there on the mound," White said. "You just try to make continual progress each time you go out there."

White actually began making progress between his first and second innings with several hundred fans watching at Huggins-Stengel Field.

With his fastball topping at 91 mph in the first inning, White got into a better groove in the second. He struck out the leadoff hitter with three straight 94 mph fastballs, then hit a high of 95 mph on the next hitter.

"I'm sure he had a few butterflies. Unfortunately for Matt, his situation is magnified by the situation of our organization and the money involved from his end," Rays general manager Chuck LaMar said. "He's probably looking forward to the time when the money and the notoriety is put behind him.

"He needed to get started somewhere and that's what he did today. We're extremely pleased with the way he has looked so far. He's been everything we anticipated he would be."

This early in the spring, White concentrated almost exclusively on throwing fastballs for strikes.

"The first inning I had so much adrenaline flowing through me, it was hard to keep it down," White said. "By the second inning, my mechanics were a lot better."

White did not get a lot of breaks. The defense was shoddy (a passed ball and three errors, including one by White), the relief pitching did not help (the two runners he left on base scored) and luck was not on his side (two hits were high infield chops).

The Rays lost 12-9, despite a two-run homer from outfielder Jared Verrall. White was the losing pitcher.

THE OTHER WHITE: Former major-leaguer Rick White made his debut with the St. Petersburg Rays against a Yankees farm team in Tampa.

White gave up two hits and one run in the ninth and was the losing pitcher in the 4-3 game but said his surgically repaired right arm felt good afterward.

"They got a couple of hits, but they didn't hit the ball real hard," White said. "I felt good out there, no pain, no discomfort. I'm pretty impressed with the way the rehab is going."

A MINOR COMMOTION: If they were charging admission, it would be a hot ticket. It is estimated more than 500 people showed up at times during Sunday's game at Huggins-Stengel.

"It's the most people I've seen for a minor-league spring training game," Rays spring coordinator Bill Geivett said. "Usually you look out there and see two girlfriends and some guy who looks like he's waiting to hit golf balls."

MISCELLANY: James Manias, who started for St. Petersburg against the Yankees, threw two perfect innings with three strikeouts. Everard Griffiths also threw two hitless innings. Bobby Seay will make his debut for the Rays' Charleston team against the Phillies at the Carpenter Complex in Clearwater today. The St. Petersburg Rays will play at Dunedin. Entry deadline for the Pepsi/Devil Rays Fan Wall of Fame is Friday.

Did you know?

Bus rides may be a pain in the neck for most minor-league ballplayers, but they'll suit T.J. Hill just fine. The Devil Rays pitcher has a thing about airplanes _ he hates them. Hill, a free agent signed out of Saint Leo last fall, has taken only one plane trip in his life. He flew from his home in Ohio to Miami to see the Bengals play in Super Bowl XXIII in 1989. Although the trip went off without a hitch, the first leg included a slightly bumpy ride on a propeller plane that did little to reinforce his faith. He since has managed to avoid the friendly skies. "Everyone tells me I'm in the wrong profession if I don't like flying, but it hasn't been a problem so far," Hill said. "If I really had to fly, I could. But it's not like I'm looking forward to it."