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Talks center on Rays' relievers

The countdown to today's 4 p.m. deadline for nonwaiver trades could be a busy one for the Devil Rays.

By MARC TOPKIN
Published July 31, 2007


ST. PETERSBURG - The countdown to today's 4 p.m. deadline for nonwaiver trades could be a busy one for the Devil Rays.

Executive vice president Andrew Friedman reported an increased volume of calls made and received Monday, and there likely will be even more in the final hours as the Rays, odd as it sounds, have what several contenders are looking for: experienced relief pitchers.

Friedman said Monday night he "wouldn't characterize anything as close or even likely to happen," but acknowledged it could change quickly.

Both closer Al Reyes and newly acquired Dan Wheeler are pitchers of interest to several teams and could become even more popular as other top relievers on the market, such as Kansas City's Octavio Dotel rumored to the Braves and Texas' Eric Gagne (Yankees?), are dealt.

The Mariners and Mets are among those most interested in Reyes, and the Dodgers and Yankees are said to be high on Wheeler, whom the Rays acquired Saturday from Houston for Ty Wigginton. The Indians and Tigers are also among those seeking bullpen help. Other teams with scouts at the Trop included the Astros, Cardinals, D'backs, Rangers and White Sox.

The Rays are willing to talk about Reyes and Wheeler, but will demand a high price because both are under team control next season - Reyes with an option for $1-million plus his earned incentives from this season, Wheeler in his final year of arbitration.

Though others may view Reyes or Wheeler as a short-term acquisition, the Rays see them as key pieces next season and are waiting to see what teams will offer. They are likely seeking young big-leaguers or prime prospects, such as Seattle's Jeff Clement.

There also may be interest in outfielder Jonny Gomes.

"We have kind of a targeted list that we focused on for a while and we reached out to teams and have been the aggressor, and in other instances other teams have been the aggressor with us," Friedman said.

Marc Topkin can be reached at topkin@sptimes.com View his blog at blogs.tampabay.com/rays.