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Marlins Beat Devil Ray Upstarts

<i> Associated Press</i>

At times, it was difficult to tell which was the expansion club when the defending World Series champion Florida Marlins traveled to St. Petersburg on Friday to play the Tampa Bay Devil Rays in the first game of the Sunshine Series.

The youthful Marlins, shed of 12 players from their World Series roster and their accompanying high salaries, won, 2-1, and Craig Counsell, the only player in Florida’s lineup on the field last October, drove in the winning run with a sacrifice fly in the sixth inning.

Bubba Trammell hit the first homer in Devil Ray history.

Tampa Bay opened the major league portion of its spring schedule after beating Florida State, 6-3, Thursday.

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Philadelphia center fielder Lenny Dykstra, 35, out for most of two seasons because of back surgery and an arthritic right knee, says he will need only 50 at-bats to determine whether his comeback from serious back and knee injuries will succeed or fail.

Dykstra said, thus far, he hasn’t felt any pain.

“I can still play,” he said. “I think people are going to be pleasantly surprised. I had some injuries that had to be taken care of and I’ve taken care of them.”

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The Phillies, though, aren’t so sure. They traded second baseman Mickey Morandini to the Chicago Cubs for center fielder Doug Glanville.

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After Oakland traded Mark McGwire to St. Louis last July 31, he asked Jason Giambi, his best friend on the Athletics, to start wearing his No. 25.

“I told him, ‘No, I don’t think anybody should ever wear your number again for the Oakland A’s,’ ” Giambi recalled.

But in just about every other respect, Giambi has become McGwire’s replacement with the A’s, taking over at first base, moving into his old locker and competing this spring with Matt Stairs for the cleanup spot in the batting order.

“I guess I got lucky because he was my best friend, so OK, now you’re taking his place but there was never that feeling of pressure,” said Giambi, who continues wearing No. 16. “I also realize there’s no way you can replace Mark McGwire. I mean, he can hit 50 home runs like it’s a joke.”

Giambi, a former Long Beach State standout starting his third full big league season, will be trying to build on impressive numbers. He hit .293 with 20 homers and a career-high 81 RBIs last season. He had 41 doubles and a 25-game hitting streak, both Oakland club records, and led the team with 66 runs scored, 152 hits and 44 multi-hit games.

“I think of him as a .300 hitter with power,” manager Art Howe said. “He’s the complete package offensively.”

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Howe will decide later this spring whether to use Giambi or Stairs, who had 27 homers last season, in the No. 4 spot.

“Either way,” Howe said, “you can’t miss.”

While Giambi could wind up hitting fourth, fifth or sixth, he has settled into first base, the first time he has had a fixed position since breaking into the big leagues in 1995.


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