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Wilson makes early departure

It was a precautionary move, but Paul Wilson's sixth outing of the spring ended prematurely as he walked off the field Sunday at Baseball City Stadium with trainer Jamie Reed by his side.

The Rays' No. 2 starter overstretched a muscle on the left side of his back covering first base on a ground ball by Royals outfielder Carlos Beltran in the sixth inning.

Wilson threw one pitch after the play and was relieved by Jesus Colome before going to the outfield to do his running.

"My momentum was going one way and the ball came back (another) way and I got a little stinger," said Wilson, who had his parents, wife and a friend in the stands. "When I came up it was just a little, like a charley horse or a cramp. It's nothing, I'm fine."

Said manager Hal McRae: "There was no need to take a chance."

Besides the minor inconvenience, Wilson mixed fastballs with sinkers, changeups and sliders and again looked strong in what most likely will be his next-to-last start of the spring.

He retired five of the first six batters he faced and allowed one earned run on three hits while striking out four and walking two in 68 pitches. He was scheduled to throw 90-95 pitches.

"I know these games don't mean anything," Wilson said. "But the mentality shouldn't change. I go out there trying to get first-pitch strikes. We don't do anything fancy until we get a strike. I'm just believing in (my) sinker. I believe it's going to get outs when I need it. I'm not afraid to throw my off-speed pitches when I'm behind in the count. I'm more or less just challenging guys."

OFFENSIVE OUTBURST: Thanks to a five-run fifth inning and three home runs against the Royals, Tampa Bay ended a nine-game losing streak with an 8-4 win.

Ben Grieve hit his first home run of the spring and Randy Winn, Greg Vaughn and Toby Hall each had doubles in the fifth. Hall, who was making his second start in a row, finished 2-for-3 with two RBIs and two runs. Winn was 2-for-4 with a homer.

"Any time you do well, it builds confidence," McRae said. "And we need to build confidence going into the season. Players need to do well to feel good about themselves and to go out, concentrate, relax and play. A little bit of success doesn't hurt.

"As a matter of fact, it's necessary."

It marked the fifth time this spring the Rays have scored five runs in an inning and the second time since Thursday in Jupiter that they hit three homers in a game. During the losing streak, Tampa Bay had lost five games by one run.

"As long as everybody feels like they're getting some good at-bats then you take that into the season and you go from there," Hall said. "It's good to win a game by a couple of runs instead of losing by one."

SWINGING AWAY: Outfield prospect Josh Hamilton, the No. 1 pick overall in the 1999 draft who's been slowed by back problems this spring, is practicing at the Ray Naimoli Training Complex.

He took batting practice and fielded balls pain-free on Saturday.

"So far, so good," Rays director of player personnel Cam Bonifay said.

SOSA NOT SO-SO: In his second outing for the Rays this spring, Jorge Sosa pitched two innings and allowed two runs on four hits while striking out two.

"He threw a little bit better today," McRae said.

Sosa pitched one inning against the Orioles Friday in Fort Lauderdale, allowing one run on two hits.

ODDS AND ENDS: The Royals reassigned pitcher Bryan Rekar to minor-league camp before Sunday's game. The former Rays right-hander had a 3.18 ERA in 11 innings this spring. Third baseman Jared Sandberg could start either Tuesday or Wednesday. The next round of cuts is expected to take place on Wednesday, but the team likely will take extra players on its weekend trip to the Carolinas.

_ KEVIN KELLY

QUOTABLE

"Trying to warm up my arm."

_ TOBY HALL

catcher, when asked what he was doing while thumbing through packs of baseball cards in the Rays clubhouse prior to Sunday's game.

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 head trainer named Jamie Reed. Another is a photographer who's pictures appear in a 414-page book entitled: "The Comprehensive Guide to Industrial Locomotives"

Keep an eye on ...

Bobby Smith is expected to start at third base. The utilityman has played four different positions this spring, including 51 { innings at first base.

Up next:NUGGETS

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