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04/24/08 7:27 PM ET

Gross debuts with Rays

28-year-old outfielder was traded from Brewers on Tuesday

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- Gabe Gross was in the Rays' lineup Thursday for the first time since being acquired in a trade from the Brewers on Tuesday.

"I don't know how many years you have to be around to start over with a new team and not get butterflies the first time you come up with them," said Gross, who hit sixth and played right field. "At the same time, I've always felt if you couldn't play when you're a little nervous, you couldn't play, because there's going to be a lot of times when you're a little nervous. It's something I've dealt with throughout my career, learning how to perform even when you've got some anxiousness."

Gross used a hunting parallel to explain what the nervousness is like.

"Like when you turn a bird dog loose, let him run around until he's tired, and then he's ready to hunt," Gross said. "Even just running a ball down in the gap, get some of that nervous energy out of you. And then just settle down and play the game."

Gross said he doesn't think he has a defined role with his new team.

"When I come in I look at the lineup," Gross said. "If I'm in it, I play. If not, I get ready to try and help the team later in the game. Just however they want to use me, I'm ready."

Gross played football and baseball at Auburn University before beginning his professional baseball career after the Blue Jays drafted him in the first round (15th overall) of the 2001 First-Year Player Draft.

Like his father, Lee Gross, Gabe played quarterback at Auburn. His father went on to play in the NFL for the New Orleans Saints (1975-1977) and Baltimore Colts (1979).

"I was fortunate enough to play both [sports] for a while in college," Gross said. "I got to the point where I felt like if I was going to have a chance to make my living playing athletics, I had to pick one. And I felt like my future was the brightest in baseball."

Bill Chastain is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.