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After shaky start, Wells shut down Devil Rays

4/5/2003

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (AP) -- The more the New York Yankees
scored, the tougher David Wells got on the Tampa Bay Devil Rays.

Wells pitched eight impressive innings and New York hit five
homers Friday night in a 12-2 victory over the Devil Rays.

''It's tough to find somebody better than him when he's got a
lead because he'll throw a lot of strikes,'' New York manager Joe
Torre said.

The Yankees are 4-0 for the first time since 1992 and have won
the first four games of the season on the road for the first time
since 1928.

Wells, who had a tumultuous spring training, said it wasn't as
easy as he made it look after giving up one run and three hits in
the first inning.

''First games are usually the toughest because you've got
anxiety out there, your adrenaline is rushing , and that's what was
going on with me tonight,'' Wells said.

''You just can't let up, no matter who you're facing. You've got
to utilize every pitch to keep them off balance and to try to keep
consistent. No matter if it's 1-0 or 13-1, you've still got to make
good pitches.''

Robin Ventura, Bernie Williams, Jorge Posada, Alfonso Soriano
and Jason Giambi all homered for the Yankees, who have scored 39
runs in four games. They've led in all but one inning.

Torre said it's rare to have so many players hitting the ball so
well at the same time.

''We know we have good hitters,'' he said. ''But for all of them
to hit at once is a little more than you can ask for.''

The Yankees have done it for the most part without Derek Jeter,
who dislocated his shoulder in a violent collision in the third
inning of the season opener at Toronto.

There was encouraging news on Jeter before the game Friday night,
though. Team doctors don't believe he will need surgery. The
All-Star shortstop, however, will get a second opinion Monday.

The Devil Rays lost their fourth in a row since winning their
opener against the Boston Red Sox. Manager Lou Piniella was so
frustrated by the team's performance that he declined to speak to
the media after the game.

Pitching coach Chris Bosio said the team's young pitchers are
finding out just how difficult it is to be successful in the major
leagues.

''You don't want to see young guys get beat up like that,''
Bosio said. ''But sometimes that's your best tool for learning.''

Wells allowed seven hits in his first start of the season -- all
but one of them in the first four innings. He struck out three and
didn't give up a walk for the fifth consecutive regular-season
start dating to last year.

Ventura hit a solo homer off right-hander Steve Parris (0-1) in
the fourth and Williams hit a three-run shot off reliever Seth
McClung in the sixth. The Yankees took a 2-0 lead in the first on
Nick Johnson's run-scoring double and Posada's sacrifice fly.

Posada, Soriano and Giambi homered off Jesus Colome in the
ninth. Giambi's two-run shot originally was ruled as the final out
of the inning, but the umpires huddled and ruled that the ball
struck one of the catwalks before it was caught by right-fielder
Damian Rolls.

Soriano, who also hit a two-run homer, has four multihit games.

Wells was the center of attention in spring training because of
his autobiography, ''Perfect I'm Not! Boomer on Beer, Brawls,
Backaches & Baseball.'' The Yankees fined him $100,000 on March 10,
saying some passages in the book tarnished the team's image.

He got off to a rocky start Friday night, allowing singles to
the first three batters he faced. Aubrey Huff's bloop hit drove in
Carl Crawford from second base, but Wells escaped further damage
when Damion Easley flied to the wall in left field, Travis Lee hit
into a force play and Damian Rolls struck out.

The closest Tampa Bay came to scoring against Wells again was
the fourth when Lee had a leadoff double and was stranded at third.

Wells, who is 6-1 in 10 career starts against the Devil Rays,
retired nine in a row after Lee's double. Rolls reached on an error
and Ben Grieve was hit by a pitch in the seventh, but Wells retired
the next three batters.

Sterling Hitchcock pitched the ninth for New York, He allowed a
run-scoring single by Rey Ordonez.

Parris allowed three runs and nine hits in five innings. He
walked one and struck out three.

Game notes
Tampa Bay center Toby Hall singled in the second inning, giving
him hits in six consecutive at-bats spread over three games. ...
Yankees left fielder Hideki Matsui has at least one hit in each of New York's
four games. ... Rookie shortstop Erick Almonte made his second start in
place of Derek Jeter and went 1-for-4. He homered and had three
RBI in his first major league start Wednesday at Toronto. ...
Crawford and Rocco Baldelli, both 21, are the youngest pair of
outfield teammates since the 1972 Phillies started Greg Luzinski
(21) and Mike Anderson (20). They have 18 hits in Tampa Bay's first
five games, including three of the seven against Wells.