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Rays prepare for new look, altering name

By MARC TOPKIN

© St. Petersburg Times, published October 8, 2000


NEW YORK -- The Devil Rays may have the same manager and core players next season, but they're going to have a new look.

While not proceeding as far as an official name change, they are going to go the single-name route, and start promoting themselves more as just the Rays.

The change, first reported in the Times in May, will be most obvious in a few months when the team unveils its new home uniforms, which apparently will read RAYS across the front, exorcising the DEVIL.

But there will be other subtle signs along the way, such as promotional materials and ads for next season. The first is out -- the cover of the just-released 2001 pocket schedule touts "RAYS Baseball."

The uniforms will feature slight changes to the color scheme, with more of an emphasis on green than purple expected. Just enough change, undoubtedly, to spur a full line of new merchandise.

There will also be a new alternate jersey added, this one a sleeveless vest.

HANDYMEN: Manager Larry Rothschild is going to be looking for a few good men over the next couple of weeks, seeking three coaches to fill out his staff.

The hitting coach hire could be most interesting, especially since the Rays already have had two -- Steve Henderson and Leon Roberts -- in their first three seasons.

One interesting candidate: Hal McRae, who was let go when the Phillies fired manager Terry Francona. Is Wade Boggs another possibility?

Rothschild also is looking for a bench coach "with some toughness" and a bullpen coach.

MANAGERIAL GO-ROUND: Five teams are looking for managers (D'backs, Reds, Dodgers, Phillies and Pirates) and at least five others could be (Red Sox, Giants, Mets, Mariners and Blue Jays), which means there is an inordinate amount of rambling about philosophies going around.

After Francona's firing in Philadelphia, senior adviser Dallas Green made his feelings known.

"If we wanted a guy who coddled the players, hell, we'd have kept Terry," Green said. "Terry's big thing was the players come first. Players should never come first. The organization should come first. That doesn't mean there can't be compassion. It just means the inmates can't run the asylum."

Here is a quick rundown of the supposedly leading, or at least likely, candidates for each of the five open jobs. Some, at this moment, are still employed elsewhere and may not be available. And yes, some of the names -- sigh -- are repeated.

D'backs -- Bob Brenly (the early favorite), Francona, Chris Speier, Jerry Royster, Kevin Kennedy, Chris Chambliss.

Reds -- Lou Piniella, Davey Johnson, Ron Oester, Ken Griffey Sr.

Dodgers -- Rick Down, Kevin Kennedy, Bobby Valentine, Dusty Baker.

Phillies -- John Vukovich, Larry Bowa, Bob Boone, Darren Daulton, Ruben Amaro Sr., Willie Randolph.

Pirates -- Francona, Baker, Ken Macha, Randolph, Lloyd McClendon, Trent Jewett, Richie Hebner.

BLACK AND WHITE: Herbert Perry said he wasn't surprised the White Sox claimed him once the Rays put him on waivers in April after Vinny Castilla came off the disabled list. "I found out they had kept trying to trade for me," Perry said, "and you know that wasn't going to happen."

CATTLE CALL: Giants infielder Jeff Kent raised eyebrows, including Baker's, by suggesting he might retire and forfeit the remaining $12-million on his contract if the team wins the World Series. Baker was concerned enough to approach Kent. "He said he's not going anywhere," Baker reported. "He's going to play awhile. He's looking forward to another contract. He bought a 20,000-acre ranch, and those cows aren't going to pay what you make out here."

SO-SO SOSA: Remember how Sammy Sosa was so at peace with things after the midseason trade rumors passed? It didn't last. Sosa, signed for next season at $11-million, wants a six-year contract extension (he'd be 39 in the final season), or else. "I always say I want to finish my career in Chicago, but right now I want to make sure I get my contract," Sosa said. "Then I can come here and not worry about anything else. I've been working so hard, and now it's time for me to be happy."

HE SAID IT: Gene Lamont couldn't resist one shot at Pirates owner Kevin McClatchy over his poorly handled firing: "The only thing I told Kevin was he should stay out of the baseball decisions and leave that to the baseball people.'

NUMBERS GAME: Pedro Martinez's .167 opponents' batting average was the lowest in history, according to the STATS All-Time Sourcebook. ... St. Louis outfielder Ray Lankford struck out 148 times in 392 at-bats. ... Toronto pitchers allowed 10 or more runs in 27 games, most in 70 years.

DIAMOND CHATTER: The tabloids say the Yankees are seriously considering pursuing Cleveland slugger Manny Ramirez, who is looking for $16-million to $18-million a year. ... Detroit free-agent slugger Juan Gonzalez switched agents for one reason, so Scott Boras can show him the money. ... The Marlins are considering a bid to re-acquire catcher Charles Johnson, now a free agent.

HOO-RAYS: The Rays, despite some reports, wouldn't have the first pick in the 2001 draft even if they finished tied with Minnesota. The tiebreaker is 1999 records, and the Twins were worse then, too. ... Members of the booster club for the defunct St. Petersburg Devil Rays have been invited to a 2001 opening week game -- free of charge.

- Information from other news organizations was used in compiling this report.

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