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Rays Find A Sleeper

ST. PETERSBURG, FLA.–Brian Stokes kind of lives under the radar.

He doesn’t come with a big reputation or a blazing fastball or a bulky bonus check. But he gets the job done.

The 23-year-old righthan-der is not usually mentioned in reviews of the Devil Rays’ top pitching prospects. He was signed as an undrafted free agent by scout Craig Weissmann out of Riverside (Calif.) Community College, worked out of the bullpen during his first two seasons of pro ball, and spent the last two seasons with high Class A Bakersfield.

But the Rays saw enough to put him on the 40-man roster, bring him to big league camp and promote him to Double-A Orlando.

"I was very pleasantly surprised when we got here to see what he had to offer," Orlando pitching coach Dick Bosman said. "He throws a lot of strikes, quality strikes early in the count. He’s very sneaky. He throws the ball in the lower 90s and every once in a while will touch the middle 90s, but the ball gets on hitters. They’re late a lot. And he goes after guys. He’s not afraid to pitch inside."

Stokes is working on a changeup with encouraging results and has been experimenting with a curve. Once his offspeed pitches improve, the 6-foot-1, 203-pounder should be able to be a successful starter at any level.

"He should have the repertoire to do it," Bosman said. "He’s deceptively strong. He doesn’t look like a big monster, but he can carry his velocity and his strength into the middle innings."

Stokes was impressive last season, going 10-7, 3.26 while leading Bakersfield in wins and strikeouts (152). He allowed three earned runs or less in 26 of his 28 starts.

And while he didn’t get to pitch much in games, he definitely benefited from the experience of being in big league camp. "I think they all do," Bosman said. "I recall my own experience, and other kids I’ve had, and you find how you measure up a little bit. You’re always comparing yourself to the competition, and you find out, ‘How far away am I? Do I measure up in this area?’ "

Cool Rays

• Tropicana Field groundskeeper McArthur Church, whose on-field dance routines were sometimes the highlight of the night, was dismissed in late April for what Rays officials said was "violating team policy."

• Righthanded reliever Kevin McGlinchy, the top pick in the 2001 Rule 5 draft, was released without ever pitching in a game.

• Previous organization report: Josh Hamilton

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