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Pep talk fires up Vaughn

At the start of spring training, Devil Rays general manager Chuck LaMar said Greg Vaughn would have to show he still could produce enough to warrant a spot on the team.

Sunday, Vaughn provided a glimpse of what still is possible.

After a four-strikeout performance Saturday that further raised the question of his future, Vaughn came back with three hits _ an infield single, a double and a home run (off Cuban defector Jose Contreras) _ in the Rays' 8-3 win over the Yankees.

Vaughn has been working on a number of adjustments to his swing, but he said the secret to his success was a pregame chat with manager Lou Piniella that allowed him to relax and stop thinking.

"He said, "Just go up there. You've had a great career, (forget about) everybody, go play ball. You don't have to prove nothing to anybody. Have some fun and let it go,' " Vaughn said. "And that's what I tried to do.

"That used to be my mentality before, but then when you play on a team where everything is so critical you become a little different, you become more defensive than aggressive."

Piniella said he liked what he saw Sunday and would like to see Vaughn in the middle of the lineup.

"If we get Vaughn to do those sort of things it makes our offense a whole lot better," he said.

LOU TV: Piniella apologized for his profane dugout outburst during Thursday's game, but he said it was a "cheap shot" for a TV station to record the audio without authorization and for ESPN and other stations to show it repeatedly.

"Was it right for me to do that? Absolutely not," he said. "I'm embarrassed by it quite frankly. I really am. There's no need to do that. But at the same time if you put that camera in every major-league dugout you're going to see a lot of that. It's not just me. Still, it wasn't right. I recognize that. And you know what, I learned from it. It won't happen again."

TODAY'S THE DAY: Piniella originally said the Rays would cut about 20 players today. Now it looks like as many as 26 or 27 will go. "The list has grown," he said. Don't expect many surprises.

GAME DETAILS: The Yankees were leading 3-1 before the Rays rallied in the sixth in front of a sellout crowd of 6,152 at Florida Progress Park.

Contreras walked Ben Grieve with the bases loaded to pull the Rays within 3-2. Two outs later Rocco Baldelli smacked a three-run double.

Tampa Bay added three in the seventh on back-to-back home runs by Vaughn and Travis Lee. Lance Carter (1-0) picked up the win for two innings of work.

BIERBRODT BACK: Rays starting pitcher Nick Bierbrodt shook off a shaky first inning, when he walked Derek Jeter on four pitches and walked Bernie Williams with one out. He recovered to force an infield groundout and struck out Jorge Posada to end the inning.

Bierbrodt allowed one hit on one run with three walks and three strikeouts. The 24-year-old had ice packs on his left shoulder and elbow and said he was rushing his pitches.

"It was one of those days mechanically struggling a little bit, struggling in the bullpen; I just had to battle," Bierbrodt said. "I'm going to have those throughout the year, so time to start practicing on it now. You look at my numbers in the minors and I wasn't a very good control pitcher anyway."

Members of the Japanese media present to watch the Yankees' Hideki Matsui were shocked to learn Bierbrodt had sustained two gunshot wounds June 7, and in response he lifted his shirt to show the large jagged scar on his stomach.

PITCHING IN: Jason Standridge starts tonight, with Steve Parris, Edgar Huerta, Travis Phelps, Bobby Seay and Travis Harper also scheduled. Gerardo Garcia, who went home to Mexico for a week to resolve visa issues, rejoined the team.

MISCELLANY: Managing general partner Vince Naimoli gave up his suite Sunday so the Rays could better accommodate the approximately 115 members of the Japanese media. Ex-Ray John Flaherty, hoping to catch on as a Yankees backup, made a brief appearance at the end of the game. The Rays beat the Pirates 11-3 in a B game Sunday morning in Bradenton; Josh Hamilton, Chris Truby, Brian Lesher and Charlie Greene each had three hits. Sunday was the eighth anniversary of the awarding of the franchise.

_ MARC TOPKIN,

KRISTEN LEIGH PORTER

SO YOU KNOW LOU?

Against which school did Piniella score 57 in a high school basketball game?

A) Canterbury B) Brandon C) Plant City D) Plant

Answer - B, Brandon

QUOTABLE

"Right now it's Sunday and I would feel bad going to my church."

LOU PINIELLA, manager, saying he still is embarrassed over last week's profane tirade that was shown repeatedly by ESPN.

Keep an eye on . . .

Jason Standridge has had a solid spring and is making a strong bid to be another young member of the pitching staff. He is scheduled for three innings tonight.

Up next:JUST IN TIME

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