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Rays in position to take initiative
By MARK TOPKIN
Published June 18, 2006
PHILADELPHIA - If his BlackBerry ever stops buzzing with the latest installments of Prospects Gone Wild, executive vice president Andrew Friedman has some important decisions looming.
The non-waiver trade deadline is six weeks away and there is already a national perception - though perhaps ahead of reality - that the Rays will be major players.
Carl Crawford's name keeps coming up, but that continues to be mostly wishful thinking by other teams. The rumor that the Angels are interested but reluctant to offer Ervin Santana is hilarious; it would probably take three or four players like Santana to get Crawford, who likely isn't going anywhere.
As in past years, the Rays have some veterans they'd deal to shed salary without getting much back. Aubrey Huff has played himself into that category, with the question now whether they even can ditch him without having to pay some of his $6.75-million, and Travis Lee and Toby Hall also could be had easily.
But the Rays also could be proactive this summer, targeting elite-level young players, like a Scott Kazmir, to add to their stash. (FYI, the Dodgers have lots of young pitching.)
Julio Lugo could draw an interesting return with the Mets, Blue Jays and Red Sox interested, though the Rays also have to weigh keeping him, and possibly resigning him, until they finally decide whether B.J. Upton can play shortstop in the big leagues (and it's looking more lately like he can't).
Mark Hendrickson has pitched well enough to attract some interest, Ty Wigginton has done the same at the plate (though he might be the bargain of the year with a $675,000 salary), and some teams are still intrigued by Joey Gathright's tools.
"We are continually focused on building this organization into a perennial contender," Friedman said. "We've got a lot of premium players at the major-league level and others knocking on the door, and we're focused on adding core and complimentary players if they help us achieve that goal."
FAMILY MATTER: Josh Hamilton said he still has a good relationship with his parents, though not as close as his first few years in pro ball when Tony and Linda were omnipresent, even following his minor-league's team bus on roadtrips.
"They let me grow up," Hamilton said. "They did a little tough love thing. They didn't track me down all the time like they used to and like my dad used to. They said, "You're going to have to do this on your own.' They let me go and grow up and become a man. I've got my own family now, a wife and kids. I talk to them two or three times a week. When I go home (to North Carolina), I go see them. It's like a normal relationship."
RAYS RUMBLINGS: They are isolated incidents, but there certainly seems to be a culture of trouble, or at least entitlement, at Triple-A Durham, where Delmon Young tossed a bat an umpire, Elijah Dukes (who earlier this season threw a fit in the clubhouse) was suspended indefinitely Saturday for disciplinary reasons, Upton was arrested on a DWI charge and manager John Tamargo was suspended for repeatedly bumping an umpire. Dukes, however, told the Durham Herald-Sun "it's about baseball" and "the media's turning it into a soap opera." Oh. ... Young returns Monday from his 50-game suspension. ... If all went as well as it seemed during Hamilton's temporary return for extended spring training, it would seem almost cruel for MLB to not at least let him keeping working out with a minor league team as he serves the rest of his drug-related suspension. ... Though most observers rave about Crawford, espn.com's Rob Neyer writes that his numbers haven't improved and "if there's evidence that he's going to become a superstar, to this point it's eluded me." ... It should be a big weekend at the Trop; the Braves have averaged 32,000 fans in previous visits and the Rays have a Fred McGriff figurine giveaway Friday and the Turn Back the Clock promotion Saturday.
--Staff writer Damian Cristodero contributed to this report.