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Guzman's return is postponed by rain

Juan Guzman has waited almost nine months to pitch in a real game. Not live batting practice, not a simulated game. A real game, with real hitters wearing another team's uniform.

Thanks to Monday's heavy rain, Guzman will have to wait at least one more day.

Guzman, who had surgery June 27 on a partially torn rotator cuff and labrum, was one of three Rays pitchers scheduled to throw in a Triple-A game at the Yankees' minor-league complex in Tampa.

Guzman pitched 1 innings during the Rays' home opener last April and made five minor-league starts after that, including his final appearance June 15. Monday was supposed to be his first appearance in a game since the surgery.

A scheduled start by Paul Wilson and Matt White's first appearance since March 1 also were washed out on a day that featured more puddles and thunder cracks than anything else. The Rays minor-leaguers didn't even bother to board the bus to make the trip.

White has been held out for nearly three weeks while he works with coaches to iron out some kinks in his mechanics, which have caused him to lose control of breaking pitches.

A NEW MAN: Damian Rolls has been in a Rays uniform for more than a year, but the team only now is getting to know him.

After being acquired in the Rule 5 draft in 1999, Rolls sat out almost all of last season while recuperating from shoulder surgery.

He played briefly at the end of last season but was not in the best of shape. Since arriving for spring training a month ago, Rolls has impressed with his versatility at second, third and shortstop. Rolls was primarily a third baseman during his first four years in the Dodgers organization, but the Rays are looking at him as a utility player.

"Based on what I've seen from him so far, I would say he could do it," manager Larry Rothschild said recently. "He has come in here a different player from last year. He's lost weight, he's got some time in winter ball behind him. Every time he's been on the field, he's done something to impress you, whether it's been stealing a base or making a play in the field or having a good at-bat. That's what you want to see from a younger guy."

Rule 5 selections normally have to spend a season on the major-league roster or be offered back to their original teams, but Rolls is in a different situation, having spent most of last year on the disabled list and on minor-league rehab. He needs to make the opening day roster and spend 59 days in the majors; otherwise, the Rays have to put him on waivers and offer him back to the Dodgers.

KEEPING OPTIONS OPEN: Although the pitching rotation has remained constant through the spring _ Albie Lopez, Wilson, Ryan Rupe, Bryan Rekar and Travis Harper _ Rothschild is not ruling out others for a starting role, including White and Jesus Colome. "I'd rather have six or seven guys ready to step in," Rothschild said. "Because you never know what's going to develop."

_ MIKE READLING, JOHN ROMANO

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