Bowie left-hander Scott Rice began his minor league career in rookie and low Class A ball as a starter, moved to the bullpen in 2002 with Delmarva and Frederick, and began this spring with seven relief appearances for the Baysox.

Then a series of rainouts prompted the need for a spot starter on May 1. Rice hasn't left the starting rotation since.

"You know, that's the million dollar question right there [that] everyone's been asking me," said Rice, a sandwich pick between the first and second rounds of the 1999 draft. The draft choice was compensation from Texas for the free agent signing of then-Ranger Rafael Palmeiro.

"I like doing both, both have their advantages, both have their disadvantages. It really doesn't matter where they put me, I just want to go out there and pitch. I don't know if [starting games] will be for the rest of the season. I'm just trying to take advantage of it while I can."

Rice, who is the youngest (22 years 8 months) and the tallest (6 feet 6) of the 26 Baysox players, is 4-3 with a 2.79 ERA. The Simi Valley, Calif., native has won his last three starts, including a six-inning, six-hit, one-run outing on Wednesday. His strikeout-to-walk ratio (37 to 17 in 48 innings pitched) is among the best on the team, and of the nine Baysox pitchers with at least 30 innings, only Rice has not allowed a home run.

Drafted just days after graduation from high school in 1999, Rice is now in his sixth season of pro ball -- and his first in Class AA.

"The higher up you go, the closer you are to the big leagues, you can kind of smell it," he said. "Being here close [geographically] to Baltimore, I can pretty much smell how close I am."