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Rays decline option on Scott; pick up options on Molina, Rodney, Shields

UPDATE, 4:41: Rays exec VP Andrew Friedman, on a conference call, said the decision on Scott was primarily to maintain flexibility as they go forward filling several open spots in the lineup and not wanting to commit in any one direction yet. He said they agreed to "keep the door open" over the winter about resigning. .... He said the decision on Molina was made with the idea that he would "be one of two" catchers, but it was too early to say whether that would be in a primary or seconday role based on who else was available. ... He also said they can definitely afford to carry both Shields and David Price (who is expected to get $8-10-million via arbitration), and do not feel they "have" to trade a starter as they seek to bolster their offense.

BREAKING: The Rays decidcd to decline their $6-million option on DH Luke Scott, opting instead to pay him a $1-million buy out.

The Rays, as reported by the Times Tuesday, picked up their options on RHP James Shields ($10.25-million), RHP Fernando Rodney ($2.5-million) and C Jose Molina ($1.8-million).

Scott  hit .229 with 14 home runs and 55 RBI over 96 games, missing 45 games with two stints on the disabled list, making $5-million.  …

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Hellickson co-winner of AL Gold Glove

Rays RHP Jeremy Hellickson was named co-winner of the AL Gold Glove award for pitchers, sharing the honor with Chicago's Jake Peavy.

Rays LF Desmond Jennings also was a finalist, but lost out to Kansas City's Alex Gordon, who won last year as well.

Hellickson is the fourth Ray to win a Gold Glove award, following Carlos Pena (2008, first base); Evan Longoria (2009-10, third base) and Carl Crawford (2010, outfield).

He said the pitchers put in a lot of time to work on their defense.  "Absolutely. We all take a great deal of pride in our fielding, we work on it all during spring training,'' Hellickson said. "We all grew up playing the field and all of us would love to win this. We love competing fielding-wise as far as pitching-wise.'

The awards are voted on by league coaches and managers.

Hellickson is the second pitcher in history to win both the Rookie of the Year and Gold Glove Award, joining the Dodgers' Fernando Valenzuela, who  was the top rookie in 1982 and a Gold Glover in 1986. …

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Molina option expected to be picked up

The Rays are expected to pick up the $1.8-million option on C Jose Molina.

By doing so, the Rays at the least will have a capable backup for 2013. And if they can't find a front-line catcher, they could use Molina in a more extensive role as they did this season.

Molina hit .223 with eight homers and 32 RBIs in 102 games, though finished strong with a .325 average in September. But his true worth is behind the plate and though there were some lapses, the Rays were pleased with his overall work with the pitching staff, particularly his framing of pitches.

Molina made $1.5-million in 2012. If the Rays didn't pick up the option they would have owed a $300,000 buyout.

The Times reported earlier today the Rays have already told James Shields they are picking up his $10.25-millioin option, and the $2.5-million option on RHP Fernando Rodney is a no-brainer. That leaves a decision on DH Luke Scott, whom they can bring back for $6-million or pay a $1-million buyout and potentially try to re-sign for less.

 

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Shields told option will be picked up

Not that there was much question anyway, but the Rays have already informed RHP James Shields they are picking up his $10.25-million option for next season, agent Page Odle said today.

An official announcement from the team on Shields will come in the next few days.

Even with his option picked up, there is no guarantee Shields will still be with the team next season as his name will come up in trade talks - or at least trade rumors - throughout the winter. Shields, 30, was 15-10, 3.52 in 2012, surpassing 200 innings for the sixth straight season, and could be a hot topic given a lack of top starters on the free agent market.

The Rays also have to decide by Friday night on options for RHP Fernando Rodney, an obvious yes at $2.5-million; DH Luke Scott, a most likely no at $6-million (though they do have to pay a $1-million buyout so could try to negotiate a lower-priced deal); and C Jose Molina, a bit of a interesting decision at $1.8-million.

 

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P Hellickson, LF Jennings AL Gold Glove finalists

The Rays didn't play as well overall as they expected to in 2012, but two of their players ended up finalists for AL Gold Glove awards, which will be annnounced Tuesday night:

RHP Jeremy Hellickson, along with RHP Jake Peavy of the White Sox and LHP C.J. Wilson of the Angels.

LF Desmond Jennings, along with Dave Murphy of the Rangers and Alex Gordon of the Royals.

The awards show starts  at 9:30 p.m. on ESPN2.

 

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Live from Detroit, it's the 4th, and maybe final, game of the World Series

UPDATE, 6:40: A few things have changed during the couple hours of media interviews and field access:

* The Tigers had to scratch C Alex Avila from the lineup with a bruise on his right forearm that is so painful it's unclear if he can start again this series. Manager Jim Leyland said in an emergency he could use Avila behind the plate but not to hit.

Their new lineup, with Gerald Laird catching:
Jackson cf
Berry lf
Cabrera 3b
Fielder 1b
Young dh
Dirks rf
Peralta ss
Infante 2b
Laird c
Scherzer p

* The Giants chose INF Ryan Theriot to be the DH - over ex-Ray Aubrey Huff - against the righthanded Scherzer. Manager Bruce Bochy said he like Theriot because he battled well against RHPs, is a veteran and makes contact.

Giants lineup:
Pagan cf
Scutaro 2b
Sandoval 3b
Posey c
Pence rf
Belt 1b
Blanco lf
Theriot dh
Crawford ss
Cain p

* Leyland said he woudl talk to Miguel Cabrera to see if there was a reason he left the clubhouse without talking to the media last night, but made it clear he didn't like the idea of a player not being accountable when he had  a bad day. …

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OF Thompson elects free agency

OF Rich Thompson, dropped from the 40-man roster last week, has elected free agency.

Thompson was outrighted to Triple-A as the Rays cleared roster space. He  played in 23 games, hitting .091, after being acquired from the Phillies organization, his first big-league action since 2004.

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Live from San Francisco, it's World Series Game 2

The 300 texts - and a message from Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez aside - Giants Pablo Sandoval said his record-tying three-homer performance hasn't really sunk in yet.

Much less what he can do for an encore.

Leading 1-0, the Giants send struggling LHP Madison Bumgarner to the mound tonight against Tigers RHP Doug Fister.

The lineups look pretty much the same, though the Tigers, as they usually do against a lefty, switched to right-handed hitting catcher Gerald Laird.

Tigers lineup:

Jackson cf,
Infante 2b,
Cabrera 3b,
Fielder 1b,
Young lf,
Peralta ss,
Garcia rf,
Laird c,
Fister p

And for the Giants:

Pagan cf,
Scutaro 2b,
Sandoval 3b,
Posey c,
Pence rf,
Belt 1b,
Blanco lf,
Crawford ss,
Bumgarner p

 

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Live from San Francisco, it's World Series Game 1

It's a picturesque day by the bay here in San Francisco, with the teams prepping for tonight's opener.

Ace Justin Verlander will start for the Tigers tonight; renaissance man Barry Zito for the Giants.

Both the Tigers and Giants kept their rosters the same from the last round.

The Tigers lineup, as expected, includes Delmon Young in leftfield, since there is no DH for the games here. Of some surprise, rookie Avisail Garcia, who began the season with Class A Lakeland, is in the lineup in right, giving the Tigers an extra righthanded bat vs. Zito.

Detroit lineup:

Jackson cf
Infante 1b
Cabrera 3b
Fielder 1b
Young lf
Peralta ss
Garcia rf
Avila c
Verlander p

San Francisco lineup:
Pagan cf
Scutaro 2b
Sandoval 3b
Posey C
Pence rf
Belt 1b
Blanco lf
Crawford ss
Zito p

 

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Today: Chat live with Tom Jones, 12:30

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Farm director Lukevics receives big honor

Rays farm director Mitch Lukevics was named recipient of  Minor League Baseball’s Chief Bender Award, presented annually for distinguished service instrumental in player development.

Lukevics, 58, joined the Rays in Nov. 1995, and assumed his present duties in 2006. He began his baseball career as a minor-league pitcher in the White Sox organization - a second-round pick in 1975 out of Penn State - then became a coach and administrator, and also worked for the Yankees.

 “Chief Bender set the standard on how to develop young players and was admired and respected by all of us in the industry,” Lukevics said in a statement. “To receive an award bearing his name is truly an honor. This wouldn’t be possible if not for the support I receive from the Rays organization and the tremendous people that I am fortunate to work with.”

The Bender award was first presented in 2008. …

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OF Thompson, RHP Rodriguez outrighted to Durham

The Rays cleared needed space on their 40-man roster, outrighting OF Rich Thompson and RHP Wilking Rodriguez to Triple-A.

Thompson played in 23 games, hitting .091, after being acquired from the Phillies organization, his first big-league action since 2004.
 
Rodriguez was 0-4, 5.56 in seven games for Class A Charlotte. The moves mean the players passed through waivers.

The Rays needed room to reinstate OF Brandon Guyer (shoulder surgery) and C Robinson Chirinos (concussion) from the 60-day disabled list.
 

 

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Rays' Rodney named AL Comeback Player of the Year and MLB Delivery Man of Year

Rays closer Fernando Rodney's historic season earned him a couple big awards Friday.

Rodney, whose .60 ERA was the best-ever for a reliever, was named American League Comeback Player of the Year, as well as Major League Baseball’s Delivery Man of the Year, an award that recognizes the most outstanding relief pitcher of the regular season as voted on by a panel from MLB.

"I was surprised by the year I had," Rodney said after the Rays season finale. "Next year, I want to be the same guy and do my job. I want to be the same person I am today."

Rodney, in his first year with Tampa Bay, went 2-2 with 48 saves in a career-high 76 appearances, earning his first All-Star selection after going 3-5 with a 4.50 ERA in 39 games with the Angels in 2011. Rodney's .60 ERA set a major league record for a relief pitcher with a minimum of 50 innings pitched, passing the previous record of .61, set in 1990 by Hall of Famer Dennis Eckersley. …

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Hunsicker on leaving for Dodgers: Rays were great, it was time for another challenge

UPDATE, 6:56: Hunsicker said the seven years he spent with the Rays were among most special of his career, that he will "forever cherish this time,'' and he felt he accomplished what he set out to do, which was help get them headed in right direction. "It was a great run,'' he said.

So why leave? "I felt, more than anything, that it was time to look for another challenge.''

He said the Dodgers came to him within the last 10 days, that he goes way back with Dodgers president Stan Kasten, and that the chance to work with him, Colletti and the "new enthusiastic" ownership group to "help restore the Dodgers to the pre-eminent organization in baseball" was appealing.
 
Hunsicker said when he came to the Rays he expected to stay only three years, and that turned into five and then seven. He praised Friedman and principal owner Stu Sternberg for the unique culture and environment they created.

"I have nothing but admiraton and respect for them,'' he said. …

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Live from Detroit, it's Game 4 of the ALCS (again) - and possibly the end of the Yanks season

UPDATE, 12:30 p.m.: The Tigers lineup is the same:

Jackson cf
Infante 2b
Cabrera 3b
Fielder 1b
Young dh
Peralta ss
Dirks lf
Garcia rf
Laird c
Scherzer p

BREAKING: The rain that led MLB officials to postpone Game 4 on Wednesday finally came a little after 10 p.m. and continued until this morning, but it's clearing here and Detroit and the prospects now look good for a game this afternoon.

Which brings us from weather back to sports, and the Yankees facing the possibility of being swept out of the ALCS by the Tigers.

Lineups haven't been posted yet, but with the pitching matchup the same - ace LHP CC Sabathia for the Yankees, RHP Max Scherzer for the Tigers - it would follow they would be the same.

That would mean 3B Alex Rodriguez and CF Curtis Granderson are on the bench, with Eric Chavez (hitless for the postseason, at 0-for-14) at 3B and Brett Gardner (whose Game 3 start was his first since April) in center. Also, Eduardo Nunez, who wasn't on the postseason roster until Derek Jeter was hurt, at short.

Though it can be debated whether the rainout helped or hurt either team, there was some tangible negative impact on the Yankees:  …

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