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Get used to this roster

At the point of spring when trade talks are heating up, the Rays seem more likely to stick with what they have.

By MARC TOPKIN
Published March 18, 2007


ST. PETERSBURG - For all the time the Devil Rays have invested in trade talks, they might not make any deal. At the point of spring when trade talks are heating up, the Rays seem more likely to stick with what they have.

"We continue to touch base with teams to get a sense of their needs and to express what we're looking to do," executive vice president Andrew Friedman said. "There's no specific deals on the horizon."

Despite the erratic performance of RHP Seth McClung, the Rays say the need to bolster the bullpen, which at one point seemed like a necessity, has subsided somewhat. RHP Al Reyes is healthy, RHP Dan Miceli showed up 30 pounds lighter and RHP Brian Stokes has been converted to short, and possibly, late-inning reliever. Plus, RHPs Shawn Camp and Ruddy Lugo have pitched relatively well.

So while the Rays continue to monitor a tight market, they are less likely to make a deal of any consequence.

"Unfortunately the other 29 teams are all looking for or not anxious to part with bullpen pieces," Friedman said. "We continue to explore to find an overlap. Internally, we've played around with different structures for the bullpen and feel it has a real chance to be underrated."

And despite all the talk of their outfield depth, the Rays may realize they really can't afford to spare anyone. CF Rocco Baldelli is considered most tradeable of the three starters, but the Rays don't know what they can expect from the potential replacements Elijah Dukes and/or B.J. Upton.

Dukes has to prove he can handle major-league pitching, as well as the big-league spotlight. Upton also has to show he can hit enough, and could end up playing more at second base which isn't good for Jorge Cantu than the outfield.

Rather than dealing Dukes or Upton now - when the Rays probably wouldn't get 50 cents on the dollar for their potential - they are more likely to wait until they see just what they have during the season. And by the end, they can revisit the idea of trading Baldelli as well.

Manager Joe Maddon so far has been pleased with the play at almost all positions.

"Do we need to make a deal? No," Maddon said. "Could we do something? Yes."

GETTING INTIMATE: Principal owner Stuart Sternberg said reducing capacity of the Trop to about 38,000 (from about 41,500) by putting tarps over the upper rows is more about intimacy than making tickets harder to get. "If I had my druthers, the stadium would have 25,000 seats," he said. "I think this gives it a little more intimate feel. It wasn't done at all for business reasons, the scarcity (of tickets), because very rarely do we bump up against that. But when you are sitting somewhere and you've got rows of empty seats behind you, it creates a different feel, whether you are in a movie theater or a stadium. We're trying to bring the walls in effectively."

RAYS RUMBLINGS: The Rays are being mentioned as a possible opponent for the Red Sox to open the 2008 or '09 season in Japan. ... Team employees were asked to help sell tickets to the home opener to better the chances of a sellout. ... ESPN.com's Rob Neyer writes that the Rays are wasting their time using Upton as an infielder and if they "won't or can't put him in the outfield where he belongs, they should trade him to somebody who will." ... Rusty Kath, public-address announcer for the St. Paul Saints, is the Trop's new in-stadium emcee. ... Sammy Sosa's comeback will be a big story in every AL city except St. Petersburg - the three games moved to Orlando are the Rangers' only visit . ... Allen St. John writes in the Wall Street Journal: "If the young, talented Tampa Bay Devil Rays were in (the NL Central) instead of the AL East, they could be the favorite." ... Vanderbilt LHP David Price, the projected No. 1 draft pick, threw 137 pitches Friday in his third straight complete game. ... The cover of the last media guide with the team called the Devil Rays features a photo of actual rays. ... In addition to the larger main videoboard, three others are being added, one featuring an in-game box score.

Marc Topkin can be reached at topkin@sptimes.com or (727) 893-8801. View his blog at blogs.tampabay.com/rays/.

Fast Facts:

Roster report

The fourth of our weekly guesses on the makeup of the 25-man opening day roster:

Pitchers (12): Shawn Camp, Casey Fossum, Edwin Jackson, Scott Kazmir, Ruddy Lugo, Dan Miceli, Chad Orvella, Al Reyes-x, Jae Kuk Ryu, Jae Seo, James Shields, Brian Stokes.

Catchers (2): Dioner Navarro, Josh Paul

Infielders (6): Jorge Cantu, Akinori Iwamura, Greg Norton, B.J. Upton, Ty Wigginton, Ben Zobrist

Outfielders (5): Rocco Baldelli, Carl Crawford, Elijah Dukes, Jonny Gomes, Delmon Young

x-non-roster

Dropped: Seth McClung Added: Jae Kuk Ryu