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Bell gets chance to keep improving

Rob Bell wasn't sure what to expect when he walked into the Devil Rays clubhouse Wednesday morning. The sight of his jersey still hanging in his locker was a good thing.

Bell's impressive performance in Tuesday's 9-3 win was enough to keep his spot on the team as the Rays instead cleared a roster spot for Joe Kennedy by designating veteran reliever Carlos Reyes for assignment.

Whether Bell stays in the rotation or takes over Reyes' long relief role probably won't be decided until after Sunday's game, when Jason Standridge is scheduled to start.

Manager Lou Piniella said Bell or Standridge will move to the bullpen so the Rays can get back to a five-man rotation after the All-Star break.

"Someone's going to have to go into long relief," Piniella said. "We're not going to pitch six (starters)."

Bell, who pitched six innings for his first Tampa Bay win, was pleased with the opportunity to better his 1-2 record and 7.20 ERA.

"I went to bed (Tuesday) night knowing I threw the ball real well and there was still a possibility I could be the odd man out," Bell said. "I prepare every time to go out and just dominate. I feel even though I was charged with seven runs in that game with New York, I feel like my four starts after my first one I've been right where I wanted to be. I feel like I'm improving every start out."

If the Rays need a long reliever between now and Sunday, Standridge will be used and Bell will start against the Mariners.

JOE SHOW: Kennedy was pleased with his first big-league outing since leaving the May 31 game with discomfort in his left shoulder later diagnosed as inflammation.

"My arm didn't hurt, so it went well," he said.

Kennedy threw 87 pitches in six innings, allowing one run and six hits while striking out one and walking two. He had baserunners in all but the first but got out of most of the trouble he got into and was clocked in the low 90 mph range.

"Everything was normal, I felt good, I made some pitches when I needed to make them. I'm happy with it," Kennedy said. "I'm just glad to be back out there. Today wasn't really about success or failure, I just wanted to get back out there and help the team out."

HIT SHOW: Tuesday's win was the product of a huge offensive night, featuring a season high-matching 19 hits and a team-record 17 singles. But what really made it stand out was that the Rays banged 15 hits off Oakland ace Barry Zito in a brutal 5-inning outing.

The Rays became the first team to get that many hits off a reigning Cy Young Award winner since July 1999, when the Marlins roughed up 1998 winner Tom Glavine. The last American League team to get that many hits off any Cy Young Award winner was the 1988 Yankees, who beat up on 1986 winner Roger Clemens.

REYES OUT: Reyes was doing a decent job in the long relief role, including a bullpen-saving seven-inning outing Sunday, but found himself shipped out for the second time in a month.

The Rays have 10 days to release, trade or pass him through waivers. He already has agreed to go back to Triple-A Durham if he clears waivers.

LEGAL UPDATE: Oakland police arrested a 21-year-old man in the fireworks throwing incident that interrupted Tuesday's game. Travares Moore is being held on $25,000 bail and is facing charges of assault with a deadly weapon and explosion of a destructive device. An 8-year-old boy was treated and released from an area hospital for first-degree leg burns, and his father complained of ringing in his ears. Rays players plan to give the boy a signed jersey.

MISCELLANY: Carl Crawford has eight multihit games in his past 11. Infielder Antonio Perez has a hit in each of his six starts. With a victory today, the Rays would win a third straight series for the second time this season. Piniella managed his 2,542nd game Wednesday, moving past Earl Weaver into 25th place on the all-time list. Former Rays left-hander Nick Bierbrodt cleared waivers and was outrighted by the Indians to Triple-A Buffalo.

_ MARC TOPKIN

TODAY: RAYS AT A'S

WHEN/WHERE: 3:30; Network Associates Coliseum, Oakland, Calif.

TV/RADIO: FSN; WDAE-AM 620.

PITCHERS: Rays _ RHP Jorge Sosa (2-6, 4.56); A's _ LHP Mark Mulder (11-6, 3.10).

WORTH NOTING: Sosa has had two impressive starts since taking Dewon Brazelton's place in the rotation, allowing one run in 11 innings. He is 0-1 in two appearances against Oakland. Mulder is 10-1, 2.19 in his past 15 home starts. He is 5-0, 2.38 in five starts against the Rays.

INFORMATION: Call toll-free 1-888-FAN-RAYS (1-888-326-7297).

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