Having to compete for a spot on the roster for the first time in four years, Steve Parris has had to do things a little differently this spring, knowing every pitch matters.
So far, he's doing pretty well.
Parris had a third straight solid outing in Monday night's 5-4 victory over Detroit and officially joined the competition for a place in the five-man rotation.
"He's right in the mix for a starting spot," manager Lou Piniella said.
In three short appearances, Parris has allowed one run in 6 innings. The next test comes Saturday when he will be stretched to four innings against Boston.
Monday, he came on with the bases loaded and two outs in the third and got a fly ball _ and a nice catch by Jason Conti _ to get out of the inning, then allowed two singles over the next two innings. He got behind too many batters, but used his changeup to stay out of trouble.
"Another step forward," said Parris, a 35-year-old who has been with Pittsburgh, Cincinnati and Toronto. "Keep battling, keep working and hopefully earn a spot."
ON THE OTHER HAND: Jason Standridge, who had looked impressive in his first two appearances, had a rough time, throwing 57 pitches without being able to finish the third inning, allowing three runs, four hits and three walks.
"From the very first pitch I threw to the last pitch I threw I was just battling myself," he said.
GAME DETAILS: Down 2-0, the Rays struck for five runs in the second, matching their spring high. Jason Tyner had a bases-loaded single, and Brent Abernathy and Travis Lee followed with back-to-back two-run doubles. Conti had a double and a strong defensive night in centerfield. Hector Luna, the Rule 5 pick from Cleveland, was impressive at shortstop; Antonio Perez was not, failing to make at least two routine plays. Travis Harper closed out the Rays' second straight win, getting a big play from Jared Sandberg, who scooped an errant throw at first, and a diving catch by Tyner in leftfield for the final out. The game lasted a spring-high 3 hours, 3 minutes. Greg Vaughn failed to hit the ball out of the infield in four at-bats. He is hitting .227 (5-for-22), with seven strikeouts.
FIRST AT THIRD: If Vaughn is the DH, the Rays will have to find room for Aubrey Huff. So far, third base is a good possibility, though Piniella likes Sandberg, too. "Huff has been doing fine at third, he really has," Piniella said. "To me he's looked better at third than he did across the diamond (at first). But Sandberg is in that mix." One possibility is Huff starts and Sandberg is the backup at third and first.
WHITE OUT: When he didn't get another opportunity to pitch since the opening inning of the Feb. 28 exhibition against Eckerd College, Matt White assumed he didn't figure much in the immediate plans.
Being optioned to Double-A Orlando confirmed that but didn't diminish his confidence of continuing his comeback from May 2001 shoulder surgery and getting to the big leagues.
"I felt like after the Eckerd game my arm really responded well, and I was hoping to get couple of innings in here and there, but they decided to go a different way and not try me out of the bullpen," he said.
ROSTER REDUX: Among the players shipped out was RHP Carlos Reyes, a Tampa product who is trying to make it back after spending last season as pitching coach for the Padres' rookie-league team. Mel Rojas was sent out without getting to pitch because of stiffness in his shoulder. Left in camp are 25 pitchers, four catchers, 12 infielders and eight outfielders.
MISCELLANY: More than a dozen players will be at Centro Ybor 7-8:30 Sunday night to raise money for the Rays of Hope Foundation. For $20, fans get buy a ball that will be signed by the players, including Toby Hall, Rocco Baldelli, Ben Grieve, Abernathy, Joe Kennedy, Nick Bierbrodt and Seth McClung.
_ MARC TOPKIN
SO YOU KNOW LOU?
A daily quiz to see how much you really know about Rays manager Lou Piniella. Answer below.
At which college did Piniella's son, Derek, play football?
A) West Virginia
B) Virginia Tech
C) Virginia Military Institute
Answer _ B
"Don't be late _ that's the main thing."
Josh Hamilton, outfielder, on what he learned during major-league camp. He was late to practice twice within a week.
Keep an eye on . . .
Jon Switzer hasn't pitched above Class A, but he did well enough to survive the first cut. With the Rays looking for left-handed relievers, he gets another chance today to show he deserves to stick around longer.