ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (AP) -- John Rocker returned to the majors
with cheers. He departed after two walks to a smattering of boos.
Jim Parque didn't allow a hit until the seventh inning in his
first start off the disabled list and Rocker struggled in relief in
his Tampa Bay debut but the Devil Rays beat the Detroit Tigers 2-0
Friday night. Rocker walked both batters he faced in the eighth inning. With
some of the 8,894 fans chanting "Rocker, Rocker," the left-hander
walked Bobby Higginson on a close 3-2 pitch. He also walked Dmitri
Young on a 3-2 count. "As you can see, I'm not in midseason form," Rocker said. "I
need a little while longer to polish things up and get
comfortable." He received a loud ovation when he was introduced and there were
some boos when he was replaced by Lance Carter. "Rocker got the fans excited," Tampa Bay manager Lou Piniella
said. The former Atlanta, Cleveland and Texas reliever had been
pitching at Double-A Orlando, where he didn't allow a run in four
innings over four appearances after signing a minor league contract
April 10. Rocker had 38 saves in 1999, helping the Braves reach the World
Series. After that season, he made disparaging remarks about gays,
minorities and others in a Sports Illustrated article. His career
went into a tailspin after he was traded to Cleveland in June 2001.
He had a 6.66 ERA during an injury-marred season with Texas last
season. "Maybe I'm a little wiser than I was four, five years ago,"
Rocker said. "I have four, five years more of experience under my
belt. I just see things in a little different light than I used
to." Rocker's fastball was in the low 90's. "It's got to be 94-plus or I don't think I'll be able to pitch
the style and with the effectiveness that Lou expects out of me,"
Rocker said. Parque (1-1) lost his no-hit bid when Dean Palmer started the
seventh with a broken-bat single down the left field line. Parque
wound up allowing one hit, walking four and striking two over
six-plus innings for his first win since Aug. 8. "A no-hitter, you have to have so much luck going for you,"
Parque said. "I've taken one into the eighth before. I wasn't
going to get excited until the ninth with two outs, 0-2 count." Parque was activated from the 15-day disabled list before the
game and made his first appearance since April 8 after being
sidelined by left shoulder tendinitis. The left-hander was replaced
by Travis Harper after Palmer's hit. Travis Lee put the Devil Rays up 1-0 with a homer in the sixth
off Tigers starter Adam Bernero (0-5). The loss snapped a four-game winning streak for the Tigers, who
have the majors' worst record at 7-26. Detroit has been shut out a
major league-leading eight times this season. Detroit had scored at least six runs in their previous five
games. "To swing the bats like we have and then all of sudden come off
like this with one hit off Parque and two hits in a game is not
what you're looking for," Tigers manager Alan Trammell said. Harper, Rocker and Carter completed a two-hit shutout. After
Rocker's two walks, Carter then struck out Palmer and worked a
scoreless ninth for his sixth save. Parque walked two in the first and hit a batter in the fifth.
Brandon Inge reached in the third when Tampa Bay third baseman
Damion Easley misplayed his grounder. Parque walked Omar Infante and Higginson with one out in the
sixth, but induced an inning-ending double play from Dmitri Young. Bernero allowed two runs and seven hits over seven-plus innings. Pinch-hitter Jason Tyner, called up from Triple-A Durham on
Friday, added an RBI double in the eighth to give Tampa Bay a 2-0
Parque didn't have a decision, but had 1.42 ERA in three
rehab starts for Triple-A Durham. ... Devil Rays SS Rey Ordonez was
placed on the 15-day disabled list with a left knee sprain. INF
Antonio Perez was recalled from Triple-A Durham. ... Tampa Bay CF
Rocco Baldelli went 2-for-4 and has 52 hits. ... LHP Steve Avery
returned to the majors for the first time since 1999 when the
Tigers purchased his contract from Triple-A Toledo. Avery didn't
get into the game.