Lou Piniella chose his words carefully, as if he were testifying on a witness stand.

Sitting behind the desk in the manager's office of Yankee Stadium's visiting clubhouse, he tried to talk about his exasperation managing awful Tampa Bay without saying anything more critical about the Devil Rays' owners.

"My wife says that God put me here for a purpose. I'm trying to figure out what the purpose is," he said, laughing. "I haven't quite figured it out yet, and I don't know if she knows, either."

He spoke slowly at times, giving thought to his answers, doodling on a computer printout of statistics. Sometimes he repeated questions two or three times, giving himself more seconds to think about his reply.

"I came here for three reasons," he said, listing the first two as family and the opportunity to work in his hometown area. The third was "the lure of winning, turning this thing around, the challenge of doing that."

"Two out of three ain't bad," he said.

On June 12, the morning after an 18-2 loss at Pittsburgh, he verbalized his despondence over managing a team whose $29.9 million Opening Day payroll was the lowest in the major leagues.

"I'm not going to take responsibility for this," he said then.

He didn't want to revisit those remarks.

"About the only thing I would retract is that, yeah, I do take my share of responsibility for it. I said that a little bit out of frustration. But outside of that, I can't do anything more than I'm doing. I care. I want to see this thing do well. I hurt. But I can only do what I can do. I can't do any more than I can do."

* SCHILLING THROWS: Red Sox RHP Curt Schilling was lobbying to speed up his rehabilitation following a simulated start. Manager Terry Francona said that's a good sign but it won't persuade anyone in the organization to hurry things along.

Schilling threw 65 pitches from the Jacobs Field mound and said his velocity and command are improving. He took some fielding practice and had no problems with the right ankle that has kept him on the disabled list since April 24.

-- From News Services

Devil Rays Manager Lou Piniella was unable to remain alone in his thoughts after an 18-2 loss to Pittsburgh earlier this month.