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Young outfielders get long-term offers

Published August 7, 2004

ST. PETERSBURG - The Devil Rays made contract offers to outfielders Carl Crawford and Rocco Baldelli.

General manager Chuck Lamar said no meetings are scheduled with the players' agents and there is no timetable, but he expects a back-and-forth by phone and fax.

"I would characterize it as a work in progress," Lamar said Friday. "It's going to take many conversations and we'll see what happens. Obviously, we'd like to keep those players here for a long time."

Crawford said his offer was for six years. It is believed Baldelli was offered the same, though he would say only it was for more than four. Both are in their second year of service time. The length would buy out three years of arbitration rights for each player and two years of free agency. Teams control players for six years of major-league service. They have arbitration rights for the last three.

Lamar said signing the 23-year-olds to long-term contracts will begin to solidify a core of young players with which to build. It also would give the team some cost certainty.

And it wouldn't be bad PR.

"This would give us the understanding, and show everybody in this community, that this organization doesn't plan to develop these players, have them succeed at the major-league level and go anywhere else," Lamar said.

"However, it takes two. If the players don't feel it's in their best interest to sign that long-term contract, we'll let things unfold and continue to negotiate over the next several years to keep them here."

Crawford said he had questions about the offer's length.

"I'm a little afraid of (losing) those two years of free agency," he said. "That's something we might have to talk about."

At the same time, Crawford said, "It's nice to get that offer. I like what's going on here and everything taking place. It's definitely a place I want to stay."

"You have to wait and see how it works out," Baldelli said. "I'm in no hurry to do anything."

LUGO, NIEMANN NEXT?: Lamar said he had discussions with representatives for infielder Julio Lugo and pitcher and top draft pick Jeff Niemann, though no offers were made.

Lamar said the timetable with Lugo was pushed back because he changed agents but added an offer could be made in the next "week to month. We're not as far along, but there has been dialogue."

UPTON SITS: After making costly errors in consecutive games and batting .143 (2-for-14), 19-year-old shortstop B.J. Upton sat Friday.

"It has nothing to do with disappointment," manager Lou Piniella said. "It's to give him a chance to relax a little bit. Get his mind off it a little bit, that's all."

"I'm fine," said Upton, taken second in the 2002 draft. "It's just tough getting adjusted to everything. I've only been here a week. I had the same problem at Triple A. It took me about a week to adjust."

Lamar said Upton will stick with the Rays for the next week to 10 days, when a decision will be made on whether to send him back to Durham.

"Some nights he'll DH, some nights he'll play shortstop, some nights he won't play at all," Lamar said. "But it gives (infield coach) Tom Foley a chance to work with him and gives Lou and (hitting coach) Lee Elia a chance to work with him at the plate."

Lamar said it all is part of the process.

"We wanted to bring him up to get a feel exactly where he was in his development," he said. "It wasn't a case where we said this guy was completely ready. We never said that to anyone. But the only way nowadays you can truly judge a player of that capability is to get him up here and see how he handles things."

MINOR MATTERS: Lefty Scott Kazmir, acquired from the Mets in the Victor Zambrano trade, is scheduled to pitch tonight for Double-A Montgomery. ... Princeton of the Appalachian League allowed at least 17 runs for the fourth time in an 18-5 loss to Greenville.

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