tampabay.com

Staff plays the waiting game

By MARC TOPKIN and DAMIAN CRISTODERO
Published October 4, 2005


ST. PETERSBURG - With manager Lou Piniella gone and announcements expected Thursday on the change in control from Vince Naimoli to Stuart Sternberg and the firing of general manager Chuck LaMar , Rays employees at lower levels can only wait to see what happens.

For some, such as coaches and front-office officials, that might mean having to decide quickly whether to pursue a job elsewhere as other teams start to make changes, or, since many are signed for next year, waiting to hear what the Rays might have to offer.

"We don't know anything," pitching coach Chuck Hernandez said. "It seems like there are a lot of things that are going to transpire. You just have to wait and hopefully end up with a baseball job somewhere."

While the players' jobs are not directly affected by the moves, they also know there likely will be some changes as a result of having different people in charge.

"A lot of things are happening," said closer Danys Baez , who can become a free agent in the unlikely event the Rays don't pick up his option. "Lou is not going to be here, Chuck LaMar is not going to be here, we're going to have new owners."

"I have no clue what's happening," Aubrey Huff said. "I don't even know if I'm going to be here."

SET FREE: The team's three potential free agents - third baseman Alex Gonzalez and first basemen Eduardo Perez and Travis Lee - all said they would like to stay with the Rays, but also don't know what will happen.

Gonzalez, who hit .269 with nine homers and 38 RBIs after moving to third, said he knows his situation could be impacted by the possible move of infield prospect B.J. Upton from shortstop to third. "That's out of my control," Gonzalez said. "If their plans are to have him come up here and play third base, that's going to leave me out.

"I love Tampa. I love the proximity to my home (in south Miami). I have no objections about coming back here."

NOT-SO-AVERAGE JOE: Yankees bench coach Joe Girardi is expected to be an attractive managerial candidate for the Rays and several other teams that may have vacancies. But with the Yankees in the postseason, Girardi said such talk will have to wait. "I'll worry about the offseason in the offseason," he told the Newark Star-Ledger . "I don't even think about it because you don't even know what's going to be out there yet."

HONORARIUM: The official BBWAA AL Rookie of the Year Award won't be announced until November. But outfielder Jonny Gomes was named one of the three finalists for the Players Choice AL Outstanding Rookie Award with Oakland closer Huston Street and Blue Jays pitcher Gustavo Chacin . FoxSports.com named Street its top AL rookie, with Gomes second and pitcher Scott Kazmir third.

MISCELLANY: The Rays finished third in the AL with a .274 batting average, 13th with a 5.39 ERA and tied for last with a .979 fielding percentage. ... The Rays will have the No.3 pick in the June draft, with a three-way tie with Colorado and Pittsburgh for the 2-3-4 spots broken by 2004 records. ... Piniella and bench coach John McLaren could end up candidates for the Marlins' managerial job. ... Piniella joked that the biggest challenge in his gig as a Fox-TV analyst for the ALCS is to "make sure my suits fit."