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Pay scale isn't sitting well with younger players

By MARC TOPKIN, Times Staff Writer

© St. Petersburg Times, published February 23, 2003

ST. PETERSBURG -- The increase in the major-league minimum from $200,000 to $300,000 is the maximum raise the Devil Rays are offering the less experienced players on their roster.

Under the new system, the Rays have limited offers to players with 0-2 years of major-league experience to the $300,000 minimum and did away with the $20,000 incentive-bonus package they used to include. (A player with 2-3 years of experience, such as Aubrey Huff, can get up to $325,000.)

The Rays figure the players already got a bigger raise than they would have under the team's previous salary structure. Several players disagree, saying players at the top end of the group in terms of experience and performance should still be able to make more than the minimum.

Pitcher Joe Kennedy, for example, made $240,000 last season -- $225,000 in salary plus $15,000 in incentives. Under the old system, he could have made about $275,000 this season -- $255,000 in salary, $20,000 available in inning-based incentives. Under the new setup, his salary for being the Rays' top starter will be $300,000, the same as a rookie with no major-league experience, such as Rocco Baldelli.

"This type of philosophy was prevalent the last time the minimum was raised, and I'm sure we're not the only team doing this," general manager Chuck LaMar said. "All these players get a significant raise, and we have to honor that raise and we will. To raise them on top of that raise, we don't think is right."

Several of the 13 players who haven't signed said they'll probably refuse, but that is a symbolic gesture since the team can renew their contracts.

HAMMER TIME: Outfield prospect Josh Hamilton missed Saturday's workout after arriving late because of what he said were problems with his new truck. Hamilton said he spent Friday night with friends in the Bradenton area, but his battery died Saturday morning and he had to wait more than 1 1/2 hours for road service. Said manager Lou Piniella: "I guess he better buy a DieHard."

THEIR BEST: Saturday was the opening of the RBEST minicamp for 26 top young prospects, who will watch the big-league workouts then receive individual instruction. Invited players include Jason Pridie, Chris Flinn, Wes Bankston, Elijah Dukes, and the Gomes brothers, Joey and Jonny.

WHEEL OF FORTUNE: The first day of fielding fundamentals didn't exactly go smoothly. "We put in our bunt plays, but we're going to have to review them," Piniella said. "About one-fourth of the players were having trouble with them."

MAKING IMPRESSIONS: Veteran left-hander Jim Parque, an increasingly strong candidate for a rotation spot, caught Piniella's eye with another solid throwing session. ... Outfielder/infielder Damian Rolls, who might be the team's most versatile player, did early work at third base. ... Bobby Seay, part of an inexperienced field of left-handers competing for two bullpen spots, has shown a sharp breaking ball.

MISCELLANY: Reliever Jesus Colome agreed to a one-year deal, for $300,000. ... The team is looking for batboys, ages 16-18, to work regular season games. Call (727) 825-3165 and leave a message.

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