Top prospect Matt White won't pitch in a regular-season game for at least a month after being diagnosed with a stress fracture in his lower back.
White, who signed for an amateur record $10.2-million, will rest his ailing back for two weeks. If the small fracture, called a Pars defect, is healed, he will need about two weeks to pitch his way into game shape. If not, he will continue to rest and be re-evaluated every two weeks.
"We fully expect it to respond with rest," head trainer Jamie Reed said. "Several of our doctors have looked at him and they all feel he has an excellent chance to heal."
White, 18, said he first noticed the discomfort when working out in January and began to feel "a lot of sharp pain" whenever he ran, though he can throw "pretty much pain free."
White said the delay to the start of his pro career will be difficult to handle.
"I'm a little frustrated," he said. "I've been working hard out there and to have this little setback is disappointing."
Reed said White did not have the fracture at the time he signed for what was the largest bonus given an amateur player. Both the Rays and White said they do not know exactly when or how the injury occurred. Reed said the fractures are common and 90 percent go undetected.
Doctors, including area back specialist Dr. Tom Tolli, examined White last week and made the diagnosis Saturday. White will remain in St. Petersburg, rather than break camp with the Charleston team this weekend, to do back and shoulder exercises.
"We will treat it symptomatically, not diagnostically," Reed said. "What that means is when he feels better he will start doing baseball activities again."
GM Chuck LaMar said, "Our staff did an outstanding job detecting the injury and getting on to this quickly. He's got about a 100 percent chance of getting healed and getting out there again quickly. The problem is when these things go undetected."
The Rays already have modified White's conditioning program to eliminate activities that jar the back and have him on a trunk stabilization program.
WILD MAN: No. 1 draft pick Paul Wilder, sidelined by groin and hip injuries, made his spring debut for Charleston on Monday, doubling off the left-centerfield wall in his first at-bat then striking out three times. "I felt real comfortable and I was seeing the ball well," Wilder said. "I was way out front and my timing was off. I swung at a couple of bad pitches. Overall it was pretty good." OF Matt Kastelic was 1-for-3 in his first start.
GAME RECAPS: Charleston lost to a Phillies squad 2-1. RHP Mark Hale, starting in White's place, gave up one hit and struck out five over three innings, allowing two unearned runs on infield errors. RHP Scott Leon allowed one hit over three innings and RHP Kyle Whitley pitched two perfect innings, striking out three. C Miguel Suriel was 3-for-4.
St. Petersburg pounded a Blue Jays team 7-0 as INF Scott Romano continued his hot hitting with a single, double and home run. "The last three, four games I've been getting my timing down and I've been working with the coaches on staying on top of the ball and I've been hitting with a lot of power," Romano said. Cuban defector Roberto Colina also had three hits.
Rays pitchers James Manias, Everard Griffiths, Matt Williams, Julio Aquino and David Carroll combined on a three-hitter. "The no walks is what I like," pitching coach Chuck Hernandez said.
MISCELLANY: LHP Bobby Seay makes his third exhibition start today for Charleston at home. RHP Denis Pujals pitches for St. Petersburg. Final roster moves are likely by Friday. RHP Shawn Stutz will have hernia surgery today and will need six weeks to recuperate before he can start throwing again.
Did you know?
Pitcher Jamie Ybarra is about to earn an interesting distinction _ playing for the Marlins and Devil Rays. Ybarra pitched for Florida's Class A Kane County team in 1995, posting a 5-5 record with a 3.00 ERA and 104 strikeouts in 96 innings, but was released and spent 1996 in the independent Northern League. He attended a Rays tryout camp and is pitching for a spot on the Class A St. Petersburg roster, which would give him the chance to pitch against the Marlins' FSL team. "I'd love to go into Brevard County and show them they made a mistake," Ybarra said.