Grieve, Hamilton shine in Tampa Bay
Updated: Wednesday February 21, 2001 9:36 AM
Throughout spring training, CNNSI.com will feature regular dispatches from Sports Illustrated staffers assigned to scout camps in the Grapefruit and Cactus leagues.
By Jeff Pearlman, Sports Illustrated
TEAM: Tampa Bay Devil Rays
SITE: St. Petersburg, Fla.
WEATHER: Sunny, firm breeze from the west, high 60s.
PLAYER I SAW WHOM I REALLY LIKED: Josh Hamilton. Twelve years ago, the Seattle Mariners invited a 19-year-old outfielder to spring training, the thought being that he would start the year at Class AAA unless -- by the good grace of god -- he had the nuclear mother of all exhibition seasons. Ken Griffey Jr. never returned to the minors.
Hamilton, also 19, was the No. 1 pick two Junes back. He has thick arms, a confident walk and more talent than any other player in the Devil Rays' system. GM Chuck LaMar says he will stick only with those players who have the aforementioned nuclear mother of all exhibition seasons. This is a team that desperately needs a savior. Enter Hamilton?
AROUND THE HORN: No more "Devil" in "Devil Rays." Well, sort of. For the six people who own Tampa Bay merchandise ... good news! You now have a collector's item. Tampa Bay will henceforth be known only as the Rays in official promotional materials and on its new uniforms. No more psychedelic Fruit Loops colors. Instead, the team is sporting forest green and black, with a purple fringe. "I give 'em the thumbs up," said outfielder Randy Winn. "Our old uniforms weren't winning any awards."
There were about 300 fans at the Raymond A. Naimoli Baseball Complex on Monday, and while none believe the Devil ... oops ... Rays will be anything but horrific, there is a ray of hope in the newly acquired Ben Grieve, the first young star on the roster. "We know the Grieve kid can play," said fan John Cooper, an accountant. "Maybe he can play nine positions."
Uhhh ... maybe. LaMar, a nice guy with a rough gig, has been saying his team has a chance to win 80-something games. This is a) ludicrous, and b) eerily similar to his prediction of last spring (Tampa Bay finished the year 69-92). "There's talent here," says outfielder Jose Guillen. "Really, there is."
Indeed, the Rays have invited to camp a collection of some of the most, uh, "used" pitchers in baseball history: Sean Bergman and Rusty Meacham. Bill Pulsipher and Paul Spoljaric. Jeff Wallace and Paul Wilson. Walking around the complex, seeing everyone dressed in their Camp Far Away green and black, it just makes one feel, well, woodsy. Very woodsy.
Sports Illustrated senior writer Jeff Pearlman will check in periodically
with reports from his tour of spring camps.