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White sidelined with back trouble

Pitcher Matt White has been scratched from his scheduled start today and will be examined by team doctors after experiencing tightness in his lower back.

White has suffered from minor back problems for much of the spring, but the situation worsened after he pitched Thursday.

"We're just going to hold him out for a while because his back is a little tender," pitching coordinator Jackie Brown said. "It's bothered him before, so we've kept him out of some of the stretching exercises."

White, who signed for an amateur record $10.2-million bonus, is supposed to leave with the Rays' Class A Charleston team Friday. Charleston opens its season April 3.

Team officials said they were unsure whether the back problem would keep him from starting the regular season on schedule.

CLUBHOUSE TRADE: While the move was not declared permanent, the Rays switched centerfielder Marcus McCain from the Charleston team to the St. Petersburg team Sunday.

McCain, 23, had been sharing time in centerfield with Alex Sanchez, 20, for the past two weeks.

"I'm just a player, I don't work in the front office, so I'll do whatever they want me to do. It doesn't matter to me as long as I can get some at-bats," said McCain, who went 1-for-3 for St. Petersburg on Sunday.

REINFORCEMENT: The Rays signed right-handed pitcher John Daniels, who was released recently by the Mariners.

Daniels, 23, was a 16th-round pick by Seattle in 1993. He has pitched four years in rookie and Class A leagues with a combined 12-16 record, 16 saves and a 3.20 ERA.

STILL GOING: Travis Cain was one of the hottest pitchers in the organization at the end of last season, and he has kept the momentum going in 1997.

Cain led the Rays' Hudson Valley team in strikeouts last season while going 2-5 with a 4.60 ERA. He was Tampa Bay's Pitcher of the Month in August after a sluggish start.

"At the end of last year we didn't have much to play for, so I wasn't as uptight when I was pitching," Cain said. "I went out for one start and just let it flow and pitched well. That got my confidence going and everything came together."

In his third spring start Sunday, Cain threw 3.1 innings of hitless ball before leaving with tightness in his back. He said he did not expect any problems with the sore back.

GAME RECAPS: Five St. Petersburg pitchers combined on a three-hitter to beat a Cardinals team 4-2 Sunday. John Lombardi doubled and singled in his first two at-bats.

Pablo Ortega pitched four innings of one-hit ball as Charleston beat the Yankees 7-1. Catcher Matt Quatraro had two hits and two RBI and Hernando Arredondo and Brian Becker each had two hits.

NEIGHBORLY GESTURE: Managing general partner Vince Naimoli was invited by the Marlins to attend Opening Day next week but had to decline because of prior commitments.

ON THE HILL: White will be replaced in the rotation today by Mark Hale, who will be followed by Scott Leon, Kyle Whitley, Aaron Horton and Julio Manon. The St. Petersburg Rays will pitch James Manias, Everard Griffiths, Matt Williams, Julio Aquino and David Carroll.

Did you know?

Half of Mike Kimbrell's repertoire was impressive. So the Rays did away with the other half. The left-handed reliever pitches exclusively from the stretch position, having abandoned the full windup. "Sometimes I get a little out of whack in the windup. I tend to have better mechanics and I throw harder out of the stretch," Kimbrell said. "(Pitching coordinator) Jackie Brown noticed it during the instructional league, so he talked to me about going just from the stretch." Kimbrell actually had toyed with the idea before, throwing from the stretch as a junior college freshman. But when he was moved from the bullpen to the starting rotation, Kimbrell went back to a full windup at Southeastern Louisiana University and last season with the Rays' rookie team in Butte. Kimbrell was 7-1 with a 3.86 ERA and two saves in 23 relief appearances last season. "They've got me pitching relief here, so I might as well get used to the stretch," he said.