tampabay.com

Gathright flexible, as long as he's in majors

By MARC TOPKIN
Published January 29, 2006


ST. PETERSBURG - Joey Gathright has no idea where he's going.

Depending on the rumor, the speedy outfielder is definitely being traded to the Marlins. Or the Nationals. Or the Mariners, Red Sox, Phillies and a half-dozen others.

But the one place Gathright knows he doesn't want to go is back to Durham.

"I'm fine with whatever happens," he said. "But I don't want to go back to Triple A. I don't think I need to. I know I can play up here. If (a trade) happens, hopefully I'll get a shot and show that I'm ready. Whoever wants me."

Gathright, 24, doesn't particularly want to leave. But after a winter of hearing his name mentioned routinely in trade talk, and knowing that the Rays outfield appears set with Carl Crawford, Rocco Baldelli and a combination of Jonny Gomes and Aubrey Huff, with Damon Hollins a capable reserve and Delmon Young on the way, Gathright sees the possibilities.

"My mind's open to whatever happens," he said. "I want to play every day, and it doesn't look like it will happen here."

Despite the uncertainties, Gathright has been working hard. He spent about six weeks playing in the Dominican, and has since been hitting the weights, adding about 17 pounds of "mostly muscle" to what already was a sculpted 5-foot-10, 170-pound frame. There's not much else he can do. "I'm just trying to get ready," he said. "This is a big season for me."

NAME GAME: Team president Matt Silverman confirmed the Jan. 15 Times report that there will be at least some change to the team name for the 2007 season: "We're not going to be the Devil Rays." Still undecided is whether to be just the Rays (with a new logo) or something brand new.

GIVE IT AWAY: An enhanced promotional schedule will feature more creative giveaways (and more of the items), such as Joe Maddon retro glasses and Dewayne Staats/ Joe Magrane double-talking bobbleheads. Even better, it will be released this week, actually in advance of single-game ticket sales, which start Feb. 18.

RAYS RUMBLINGS: While changing four of their six minor-league managers, the Rays kept all six pitching coaches in place, including former big-league coaches Joe Coleman (Durham), Marty DeMerritt (Visalia) and Dick Bosman (Hudson Valley). ... There's chatter in Cincinnati about hiring former Rays scouting director Dan Jennings as GM with the idea he would lure Lou Piniella to manage. Make it a Chuck LaMar-Piniella quinella and the Rays could save big on what they're paying the two not to work. ... If Casey Fossum starts 30 games in 2006, his 2007 salary goes from $2.2-million to $3-million. If he starts 30 games again in 2007, his 2008 salary goes from $3- to $4-million and, assuming the Rays pick up the 2008 option, his three-year deal is worth $9.05-million. ... During a shoot-for-charity event at Tuesday's Lightning game, Gomes took a full swing and plunked the team's ThunderBug mascot with the puck. "There's not a whole lot of finesse in my game," Gomes said. "I was hoping some Lightning scouts were watching." ... With Don Zimmer taking his No. 58, reliever Travis Harper will wear No. 38 to honor traded teammate Lance Carter. ... With the Red Sox apparently finally settled on Alex Gonzalez, the Cubs may have the most trade interest in shortstop Julio Lugo. ... The large tank of live Rays on the right-centerfield patio looks like a go, though it may take until July to complete. ... With a renewed commitment to international scouting and player development, the Rays plan to operate facilities in the Dominican Republic and Venezuela. ... One concern about infielder Russell Branyan, whose minor-league deal will be finalized this week - he hit .280 vs. right-handers last season but .050 (1-for-20 with 13 strikeouts) against lefties. ... In another sign of their new community effort, the Rays had a float in the Gasparilla parade for the first time since 1998. ... Assistant home clubhouse manager Jose Fernandez will be equipment manager for the Puerto Rican team in the World Baseball Classic. ... The Rays' Feb. 27 charity golf classic is sold out.

MISCELLANY: Ozzie Smith says he won't return to the Cardinals in an official capacity as long as "some people" are still working there. "It's about respect," Smith said. ... The Orioles couldn't be too happy to hear Anna Benson, outspoken and occasionally outlandish wife of newly acquired pitcher Kris Benson, tell New York reporters "we look forward to christening the parking lot" of Camden Yards. ... Sammy Sosa may end up in Japan if things don't work out with the Nationals. ... Jim Beattie is the likely front-runner for the Reds GM job, and manager Jerry Narron is probably not very safe.