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Control lapse baffles Alvarez

One day after his one-inning-plus disaster, Devil Rays ace Wilson Alvarez still had questions about his performance Friday.

And still had no answers.

"I went home and tried to think about what happened and all I can say is that I don't know," Alvarez said. "That was the worse experience I ever had in my career."

Alvarez, who won three straight before Friday's game, gave up three runs in the first inning, then hit two batters and walked a third to load the bases with no outs in the second. Manager Larry Rothschild pulled him for long reliever Dan Carlson.

Alvarez said his wife Daihanna pulled him aside and asked what was wrong.

"She said to me: "I have never seen you like this. Something is bothering you.' "

The six-year veteran said he could not find the strike zone and could not keep the ball from sailing. He said Rothschild's decision to yank him was the right one.

"Well, I wanted to keep pitching but Larry made the right choice. I just didn't have it," Alvarez said.

MINOR EXPLOSION: Rothschild does not have to look far for proof of the depth the Rays have in their inaugural season. All he has to do is check out the Triple-A Durham Bulls. In a 21-12 victory over Indianapolis (Reds) on Friday, the Bulls got career days from 3B Scott McClain, who had an impressive spring with the Rays, and OF Bubba Trammell, who was sent down last week.

McClain led the onslaught with a 4-for-6 performance that included two home runs and nine RBI. McClain moved into third in the International League with 18 RBI.

Trammell, who began the season with the Rays before slumping to .176, was 5-for-6 with three doubles, three RBI and four runs scored.

"I'm really happy for Bubba, to see him go down there and do well," Rothschild said. "And Scott had a very good spring. It's good to know."

TRULY COMING HOME: For the first time in his career, the term "coming home from a long road trip" really had meaning for 1B Fred McGriff, a Tampa native who has played for Toronto, San Diego and Atlanta.

"It's a little unusual to be able to sleep in your own bed and see your own kids during this early part of the season," McGriff said. "I've never had this before, but it's a privilege. I know there aren't a lot of baseball players who have the chance."

YOU AGAIN: Although the Rays have played the Angels six times, Springer has not pitched against his former team until tonight.

He said he won't be too distracted by seeing some former teammates.

"I think all players get excited thinking about going up against a former team," Springer said. "But once you get to the bullpen and it's game time, you don't think about it anymore."

Before being taken by the Rays in the first round of the expansion draft, Springer spent two season with the Angels. He was 5-6 with a 5.51 ERA in 1996 and 9-9 with a 5.18 ERA last season.

RAYS WRAPUP: While biding time before the game, Rays bench coach Frank Howard routinely does the daily crossword. "I like to fight through them early in the day and get the mind going," he said.

_ ROGER MILLS

Up next:WEDDINGS

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