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Cuts clear up roster picture

After reassigning six players to the minor leagues Wednesday, the Rays moved into the final stages of setting their roster.

"This is kind of it," manager Hal McRae said. "We're rounding third."

Five of the reassigned players were former major-leaguers seeking reserve roles: infielder Ryan Freel, outfielders Kevin Sefcik and Emil Brown and pitchers Jason Dickson and Tom Martin. The sixth was pitcher Luis de los Santos, who reported to camp three weeks late after visa complications.

The moves left the Rays with 35 players, 10 more than they can have by midnight March 30.

Five of the 16 remaining pitchers are likely to go, with Nick Bierbrodt, who needs more time to work out his control problems, and Jorge Sosa most likely. The other three cuts are likely to come from a group that includes Travis Harper, Delvin James, Steve Kent, Ryan Rupe and Bobby Seay.

Two of the four remaining catchers have to go, with Yamid Haad and Sal Fasano headed out unless the Rays find a taker for John Flaherty.

The final three cuts likely will come from among the 15 remaining position players. Most likely infielders Aubrey Huff, Felix Martinez, Bobby Smith and Jason Smith and outfielders Jason Conti and Troy O'Leary are competing for the final three spots.

DEEP-ROOTED: Bierbrodt may have lost control of his pitches, but he hasn't lost his sense of humor.

Bierbrodt put a small bamboo plant in his locker as something of a good-luck charm and brought it to the bullpen Tuesday when he was throwing. "It's just a joke," he said. "I took it outside to get it some sun. The sign at the place said, "Good luck,' so I figured why not. It's just one more thing for (Tanyon) Sturtze to give me grief about."

PRIDE IN HIS WORK: In his first four games, starter Joe Kennedy got plenty of practice working out of trouble. That didn't change Wednesday.

Kennedy faced seven batters in the first two innings and struck out two. But in the third, the left-hander loaded the bases with one out before Nomar Garciaparra lined into a double play. Kennedy had a 1-2-3 fourth and gave up a run on three hits in the fifth.

"Pitching with people on base is something that I pride myself on," Kennedy said. "It's how you keep your ERA down and keep your team in the ballgame."

Kennedy had success throwing curveballs early in counts, but he would like better results from his changeup and fastball.

PUSHING IT: Reliever Steve Kent took the loss after giving up three runs on three hits in 2 innings. All the runs scored on a home run by Michael Coleman in the eighth that gave the Red Sox a 4-1 lead, the eventual final.

Kent pitched a scoreless sixth and seventh before being sent to the mound for a third inning his body wasn't ready for.

"I started off good, but I got a little tired and left some pitches up," Kent said. "I haven't gone three innings yet. I think it took a toll on me out there."

BACK IN THE FIELD: Greg Vaughn made his first start in leftfield and played six innings. The only problems he reported involved being thrown curveballs for the first time since August.

"It felt good," Vaughn said. "It felt good to go out there and play. But there's a lot of work to be done yet."

Vaughn was 0-for-2 with a walk.

SOSA A RAY: Sosa, claimed off waivers from Milwaukee, showed up confident he can win a spot even though he only started pitching last season, having been an outfielder. "I believe in my arm and I believe I can do it," said Sosa, who says he is a distant cousin of Cubs star Sammy Sosa.

MISCELLANY: Toby Hall helped kick off the countywide Reading is Cool program Wednesday at Campbell Park Elementary. Each elementary school will get a videotaped series of five children's books read by Rays players and TV broadcaster Dewayne Staats. The crowd of 5,948 was the Rays' largest of the spring. Ex-Ray Rolando Arrojo, who could be available next week, allowed two hits and the tying run in the fifth.

_ MARC TOPKIN, JOHN ASHLEY

Quotable

"I don't feel too good about things right now."

_ HAL McRAE

manager, on the state of the team since it lost Nick Bierbrodt from the rotation

DIKY: Don't I know you?

Ever play the name game? We used some Internet search engines to find people with the same (or similar) names to Rays players, coaches and officials. Here's today's:

The Rays have a pitcher named Wilson Alvarez. Another heads the Wilson Alvarez Consulting Group, a Miami firm that provides Internet technology consulting and operates the domain name www.wilsonalvarez.com.

Keep an eye on...

Wilson Alvarez will pitch for Triple-A Durham today in a 1 p.m. game at the minor-league complex, 7901 30th Ave. N. Admission is free.

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