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Grieve might gain RBI in shuffle

The combinations still are spinning in manager Larry Rothschild's head. But when he makes a final decision on a batting order, don't be surprised if the middle looks like this: Greg Vaughn third, followed by Fred McGriff, Ben Grieve and Vinny Castilla.

When the four played together earlier in the spring, Grieve batted third and Vaughn fifth. But Rothschild switched them for Tuesday's game and will again tonight, reasoning that Vaughn and McGriff usually have high on-base percentages and Grieve would have a chance to be more productive hitting behind them.

"The fifth spot, I think, is where most of the opportunities for RBI come on our club and I consider (Grieve) to be one of our better hitters," Rothschild said. "I don't feel like we can go wrong in either spot if guys are swinging the way they can, whether Greg's hitting fifth or third or Ben's hitting third or fifth. I think it's a good situation no matter what. But you want to make optimal use of talents like that."

Rothschild said he would like to settle on a lineup by the first part of next week.

GUZMAN ON MOUND: Juan Guzman was supposed to pitch in his first "real" game in more than nine months Tuesday afternoon. That idea got washed away when rain began falling at the Ray Naimoli Complex and the Phillies minor-leaguers packed their bags and went home.

Instead, Guzman was relegated to taking the mound in an intrasquad game between Triple-A Durham and Double-A Orlando. It may not have been "real," but for Guzman and the Rays, it was just as important.

The 34-year-old right-hander made the biggest step in his rehabilitation after surgery to repair his rotator cuff and labrum, pitching two no-hit innings and striking out one. Guzman threw 25 pitches in his first game action since June 15.

"I feel good," Guzman said. "It was a good feeling, I like it, getting to face hitters. Today I just wanted to get loose and build up arm strength."

Guzman, who pitched 1 innings for the Rays last season, mixed sliders and changeups with some fastballs, working mainly on control rather than velocity.

"You could see all of his hard work paying off today," catcher Mike DiFelice said. "I thought he threw good, especially coming off what he's been coming off. It's one step at a time and today, if you take anything out of it, it is a positive."

GETTING ON TRACK: After a pair of subpar outings, Ryan Rupe pitched five strong innings Tuesday in a 6-5 victory over the Twins. "Today was a lot better than it was the last time out. All of my misses today were down low, whereas last time I missed up in the zone," Rupe said. "Today was a big step forward."

FIRST STEP: Matt White made his first appearance since a March 1 game against Notre Dame, pitching two innings in the minor-league intra-squad game. White gave up a walk and a home run but otherwise looked strong.

White said he had success mixing in his curveball after having trouble locating the pitch the past two weeks. The Rays have held White out of games while he worked on his throwing motion.

"I've been working on my fastball and changeup, so it was nice to get the curveball going, getting that third pitch over," White said.

"He really made some great pitches today," DiFelice said. "His fastball had some pop. He's another one who hasn't seen a lot of game atmosphere and I think he was a little nervous with the first batter, but he did a good job loosening up after that."

SPEED DEMON: McGriff nailed his second straight stolen base of the spring Tuesday, leading someone to suggest he might have 30-30 potential as in 30 steals over 30 years. McGriff actually has 70 stolen bases in his 15-year career and is 10-for-12 in stolen-base attempts with the Rays.

"He's been running good this spring, going from first to third," Rothschild said. "I don't know if he's found a fountain of youth or what, but he's run the bases very, very well, and that's a credit to the work he's put in."

GOOD TIMING: Rusty Meacham took a major step toward securing a spot in the bullpen with 2 shutout innings. Of more importance to Meacham was coming in with a pair of runners in the sixth inning and getting the final out.

"I take a lot of pride in stopping inherited runners from scoring, so that was very satisfying," Meacham said. "That's huge for me because I want to show them they can depend on me in those kind of situations."

GETTING POSITION: The Rays took advantage of the minor-league intrasquad game to have Steve Cox and Damian Rolls work on new positions. Rolls played second base and Cox played leftfield. Cox played some outfield last season but has concentrated on first base most of the spring.

PRECAUTIONARY MEASURE: Twins first baseman Doug Mientkiewicz was taken to a hospital for a CAT scan after a collision with Rays shortstop Felix Martinez. Mientkiewicz was helped off the field and taken into the Rays clubhouse, where he was examined by team physician Michael Reilly. The preliminary report was a concussion.

_ MIKE READLING, JOHN ROMANO, MARC TOPKIN

WILD ONE: Jesus Colome grimaces after his third straight walk, forcing in a run in the sixth.

QUOTABLE

"Every day I come in here and all my stuff is still in my locker, I'm a happy guy."

_ TREVOR ENDERS

Rays Pitcher

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DAY 33: Who led the Rays in infield hits last season?

Keep an eye on...

Today's game could go a long way toward determining what left-handers remain in the bullpen. Lefties Trevor Enders, Jeff Wallace and Doug Creek all are scheduled to pitch.

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