Matt White is finding that professional baseball takes a little getting used to.
The Rays' top prospect was again unimpressive in his second professional exhibition start Thursday, allowing three runs on five hits over three innings while striking out two Yankees minor-leaguers. He threw two wild pitches, bounced a couple of breaking balls, made an error by throwing a pickoff past first base and ran off the field after only two outs in the third inning.
"I'm starting to feel a little more comfortable," said White, the 18-year-old who signed for an amateur record $10.2-million bonus. "I'm a little bit frustrated that they're hitting some of my good fastballs. I'm happy that I'm not walking people. I'm throwing strikes and good things will come."
White, who allowed six hits in 1 innings Sunday in his pro debut, said he improved this time. "I definitely threw the ball better than last time out," White said. "I got the ball down a little more. I'd give myself a C-plus or B."
White threw the ball consistently in the mid-90s, hitting 97 once during his 39-pitch outing, according to the Rays. The Yankees hit the ball hard a couple times, though he retired the side in order in the second inning.
Overall, the Rays coaches said they liked what they saw. "I thought he threw the ball good," pitching coordinator Jackie Brown said. "It was just a typical young game. When he got the ball up, they hit the ball. When he got it down, he threw the ball the way you want to see him throw it. He was definitely better today. There was definitely an improvement. He's going to be just fine.
"I don't expect him to be perfect. Maybe everybody else does. I see an 18-year-old kid trying to get his feet wet. He just happens to have bigger pockets than the rest of us."
White said he felt he was rushing a bit during the game and was not able to get comfortable enough to get all his pitches working. He was still in good spirits, however. Asked about running off the field after a double play in the third inning, he said: "Actually, I was backing up third on that play."
SCARY MOMENT: CF Alex Sanchez was down for several minutes after diving facefirst to make a catch and landing on the ball. Rays officials said he was a little sore but suffered no serious injuries.
GAME RECAPS: The Charleston team lost to the Yankees 8-6. Jared Verrall, with a triple and a single, and Doug Barner each drove in two runs.
The St. Petersburg team had 17 hits and beat a Cardinals team 9-4. Joe Pomierski was 4-for-5 with two RBI to lead the way. Ray Suplee, Erick Corps and Sean Twitty each had two RBI. Everard Griffiths had a stellar day on the mound, allowing one hit and striking out five in three innings.
TODAY'S SCHEDULE: Bobby Seay is scheduled to make his second start for Charleston against the Yankees at 10 a.m. in Tampa. The other Rays will play a split-squad game, with Julio Garcia's Devils playing Charlie Montoyo's Rays at 10:15 a.m. at Huggins-Stengel Complex.
MISCELLANY: No. 1 draft pick Paul Wilder, bothered by a sore groin, is scheduled to play in a game for the first time Monday. Matt Kastelic, slowed by a sore back and quadriceps, expects to play for the first time this weekend. OF Jim Buccheri, originally slated to go to Mexico City, said he will spend at least two or three more weeks in St. Petersburg working out. The Mexico City Tigers, with whom the Rays have a working agreement, won their season opener Wednesday. Managing general partner Vince Naimoli tossed out the first pitch; GM Chuck LaMar also was there.
Did you know?
Outfielder John Lombardi grew up in Warwick, R.I., which is not exactly a baseball hotbed, but with some interesting help, he made it to the desert to play college ball at Central Arizona Junior College. "An umpire who used to do my high school games in Rhode Island was doing junior college games out there and told the coach about me," Lombardi said. "He called me up and offered me a scholarship, sight unseen."