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Oviedo set to return

Juan Carlos Oviedo spent 2013 with the Rays but didn't pitch in the majors as he completed rehab from Tommy John elbow surgery.

Major League Baseball

Juan Carlos Oviedo spent 2013 with the Rays but didn't pitch in the majors as he completed rehab from Tommy John elbow surgery.

The Rays are set to add another piece to their bullpen as they are re-signing Juan Carlos Oviedo.

Oviedo, known formerly as Leo Nunez, spent 2013 with the Rays but didn't pitch in the majors as he completed rehab from Tommy John elbow surgery. Earlier this off-season the Rays declined a $2-million option.

Nunez had 92 saves from 2009-11 with the Marlins, and could be a key addition as the Rays seek to replace free-agent closer Fernando Rodney.

An announcement on Oviedo is expected next week, along with official word on Jose Molina's two-year deal to return.

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Gomes, Joyce, McGee co-hosting charity event

Rays RHP Brandon Gomes, OF Matt Joyce and LHP Jake McGee are the honorary co-chairman for the Pinellas County Education Foundation's Ties and Tennis Shoes Gala at Tropicana Field on Dec. 6, doors open at 7 p.m. Tickets ($35 for general admission) can be purchased online through the foundation website, pinellaseducation.org.

From the event website:

"We cordially invite you to join us for our 2nd Annual Ties and Tennis Shoes Gala at Tropicana Field, a unique evening where you dress like a grown-up and play like a kid. Wear your favorite cocktail attire, but plan to complete your look with blinged-out sneakers! Enjoy delicious cuisine, shop at our ‘Tis the Season Shoppes, place your bid at our silent auction, visit our craft beer tables, challenge your friends and family to a jousting duel or test your skills at table tennis, battle bots, slap shot hockey, baseball, basketball and so much more."

General Admission: $35 includes Food, Games & Cash Bar (Beer & Wine)

VIP Admission: $125 includes Entry to Private VIP Party Suite, Food, Games, Beer & Wine Corporate Party Suites

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Official spring training schedule

The Rays today released their official spring training schedule, which appears below, and some basic ticket information.

First, the opening dates: Pitchers and catchers report to Port Charlotte on Feb. 14 and have their first workout on Feb. 15; the rest report on Feb. 19 and the first full-squad workout is Feb. 20.

Tickets: Single-game tickets will go on sale sometime in January, exact date TBA. Prices will be $10-29. Reservations for a "season ticket" for the 14 home games at Charlotte Sports Park are being accepted with a $100 deposit, via raysbaseball.com/springtraining or by calling 888-FAN-RAYS. …

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Price creates another Twitter stir

Rays ace David Price seemed to have good intentions at the start of this tweet he sent out Tuesday afternoon, but by the end he was in the middle of another controversy, having riled up more than a few followers, bloggers and others who accused him of chauvinism and sexism, and others defending him and suggesting others took it too seriously.

Everyone thats traveling for thanksgiving please be careful! Driving conditions will be rough with these storms! Ladies..let ur man drive!

- @DAVIDprice14

Within six hours, that tweet  had been retweeted more than 1,000 times and picked up by several websites. Another current big-league pitcher joined the fray, Royals RHP Jeremy Guthrie posting a photo of himself in the passenger seat and a woman driving with the text: I'm gonna brave it, but if conditions worsen we will switch.

This is the second stir Price has created recently on Twitter. After his Game 2 playoffs loss to the Red Sox, Price's rants included criticizing TBS analysts Dirk Hayhurst and Tom Verducci, ending with, SAVE IT NERDS. He apologized the next day on Twitter, and the day after that to reporters. …

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Hall of Fame ballot released

The field of candidates for baseball's Hall of Fame became even deeper this year, with 300-game winners Tom Glavine and Greg Maddux among 19 newcomers to the ballot released Tuesday.  Other additions, after the mandatory five-year wait, include Jeff Kent, Mike Mussina, Frank Thomas, plus three players with Tampa Bay area ties - Luis Gonzalez (Tampa native, Jefferson High), Kenny Rogers (Plant City High), Hideo Nomo (a former Ray). Top holdovers include Craig Biggio and Jack Morris, along with Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens and Tampa native/former Ray Fred McGriff. Results will be announced Jan. 8.

Hall of Fame ballot
Holdover candidates shown with 2014 votes, percentage (75 needed for election) and previous years on ballot.

Moises Alou            
Jeff Bagwell       339    59.6%    3
Armando Benitez            
Craig Biggio       388    68.2%    1
Barry Bonds       206    36.2%    1
Sean Casey            
Roger Clemens  214    37.6%    1
Ray Durham            
Eric Gagne            
Tom Glavine            
Luis Gonzalez            
Jacque Jones            
Todd Jones
Jeff Kent            
Paul Lo Duca            
Greg Maddux            
Edgar Martinez   204    35.9%    4
Don Mattingly     75    13.2%    13
Fred McGriff       118    20.7%    4
Mark McGwire     96    16.9%    7
Jack Morris        385    67.7%    14
Mike Mussina            
Hideo Nomo            
Rafael Palmeiro 50    8.8%    3
Mike Piazza      329    57.8%    1
Tim Raines       297    52.2%    6
Kenny Rogers            
Curt Schilling    221    38.8%    1
Richie Sexson            
Lee Smith        272    47.8%    11
J.T. Snow            
Sammy Sosa     71    12.5%    1
Frank Thomas            
Mike Timlin            
Alan Trammell   191    33.6%    12
Larry Walker      123    21.6%    3

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Rays to detail Trop improvements Dec. 3

Rays officials on Dec. 3 will provide details and renderings of the improvements planned for Tropicana Field, highlighted by the addition of walkways to provide 360-degree circulation through the outfield and a reconstruction of the Batters Eye restaurant into an open-air fan gathering spot.

The Times previously reported details here and here.

St. Petersburg City Council on Monday by a 7-0 vote approved $1.3-million in funding for the plan from a capital improvements fund. There also will be other improvements, including bathroom overhauls, better lighting and improvements required under the Americans with Disabilities Act.

 

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Maddon hosting 8th annual Thanksmas events

Rays manager Joe Maddon will host his eighth annual Thanksmas event next month, preparing and serving a holiday meal for hundreds of needy citizens around the Tampa Bay area.

Maddon will purchase the food for the Italian/Polish feast, then with help from Rays coaches and staffers, cook and serve Dec. 16-18 at Salvation Army Shelters in St. Petersburg, Tampa and Bradenton, plus the Sallie House in St. Petersburg and the Homeless Emergency Project in Clearwater.

There will be a kickoff fundraising event on Friday, Dec. 13, at Tampa's 717 South restaurant (717 S Howard Ave.) from 5 p.m. until closing. Maddon's Thanksmas meal will be served; Rays players and coaches will be guest servers.

Last year, thanks to donations and the fundraising event, Maddon's Thanksmas also donated $7,500 to the Salvation Army Centers and the Sallie House, which provides a safe haven for children who have been removed from their home because of abuse, neglect or abandonment.

For more details, or to donate, see joesthanksmas.com.

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Molina's 2-year deal is for $4.5-million

   The Rays’ deal to bring back C Jose Molina is set to be finalized this week, and when it is officially announced in the next few days, expect it to be for $4.5-million over two years.
   Molina is expected to get $1.75-million in 2014 (a slight pay cut from 2013, when he made $1.8-million) and then $2.75-million in 2015, with the full contract guaranteed.
   Molina is set to travel to the Tampa Bay area to take a physical Monday or Tuesday, and once that is complete the deal is expected to be official.
  Molina also will make a contribution to the Rays Baseball Foundation, as is standard for players who sign multi-year deals.

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Unofficial spring training schedule

Unofficial Rays spring training schedule

The Rays are expected to release their spring training schedule sometime next week. Here is an unofficial version, cobbled from the schedules released by other teams. Some teams have ticket information on their websites. Home games are in boid. Obviously it is subject to change:

Feb. 28: vs. Orioles, Port Charlotte
March 1: at Pirates, Bradenton
March 2: vs. Twins, Port Charlotte
March 3: vs. Phillies, Port Charlotte
March 4: at Red Sox, Fort Myers
March 5: vs. Yankees, Port Charlotte
March 6: at Orioles, Sarasota
March 7: at Blue Jays, Dunedin
March 8: vs. Pirates, Port Charlotte
March 9: at Yankees, Tampa
March 10: at Red Sox, Fort Myers
March 11: vs. Twins, Port Charlotte
March 12: at Blue Jays, Dunedin
March 13: vs. Pirates, Port Charlotte
March 14: at Braves, Disney
March 15: (ss) at Pirates, Bradenton; (ss) vs. Jays, Port Charlotte
March 16: vs. Red Sox, Port Charlotte
March 17: OFF
March 18: at Twins, Fort Myers, 7:05
March 19: at Orioles, Sarasota
March 20: vs. Twins, Port Charlotte, 7:05
March 21: vs. Jays, Port Charlotte
March 22: vs. Orioles, Port Charlotte

March 23: at Red Sox, Fort Myers
March 24: at Twins, Fort Myers
March 25: vs. Red Sox, Port Charlotte
March 26: vs. Orioles, Port Charlotte, 7:05

March 27: at Orioles, Sarasota, 7:05
March 28: at Tigers, Lakeland
March 29: at Double-A Montgomery
March 30: Off
March 31: Regular season opener vs. Jays at Trop …

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Molina working on 2-year deal to return

Jose Molina, 38, spent the last two seasons with the Rays, starting a career high 87 games in 2013 while hitting .233 with two home runs and 18 RBIs.

JAMES BORCHUCK | Times

Jose Molina, 38, spent the last two seasons with the Rays, starting a career high 87 games in 2013 while hitting .233 with two home runs and 18 RBIs.

The Rays and Jose Molina are close to deal that would bring the veteran catcher back for two more years, the Times has learned.

Molina, 38, spent the last two seasons with the Rays, starting a career high 87 games in 2013 while hitting .233 with two home runs and 18 RBIs. His forte is considered his defense, specificially his pitch-framing ability.

In returning for 2014, Molina will again share time with Jose Lobaton. Their opportunities will be primarily matchup based, though Lobaton, who hit .249 with seven homers, is likely to get more playing time.

Molina had interest from other teams, but liked the situation playing with the Rays and for Joe Maddon, and the chance to work with the talented pitchers on the staff. With an unimpressive pool of talent on the second-tier free-agent market, the Rays obviously felt more comfortable sticking with Molina. A trade for Cincinnati's Ryan Hanigan also seemed to be a possibility.

Molina made $1.8-million last season when the Rays picked up his option after making $1.5-million in 2012. Terms of the new deal are not yet finalized. An annoucement seems likely next week. ESPN's Buster Olney first reported the team and Molina were in talks. …

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Roster additions: Belnome, Hahn, Riefenhauser, Yates

The Rays added four players to their 40-man roster, protecting them from being selected in the Rule 5 draft:

INF Vince Belnome

Belnome, 25, hit .300 with eight homers and 67 RBIs in 127 games at Triple-A Durham and was chosen team MVP. He also was an International League All-Star. Belnome can play first and third, and could be a candidate for a big-league job depending on what other moves the Rays make.

RHP Jesse Hahn

Hahn, 24, was 2-1 with a 2.15 ERA in 19 starts for Class A Charlotte, and looked to be recovered from previous arm issues.

LHP C.J. Riefenhauser

Riefenhauser, 23, split the season between Double-A Montgomery and Durham, compiling a 1.22 ERA in 51 appearances, was a Southern League All-Star and a member of the U.S. team for the Futures Game.

RHP Kirby Yates

Yates, 26, was 3-2, 1.90 with 20 saves at Durham, with 93 strikeouts in 51 appearances.

Also, the team announced the signings to minor-league deals of RHPs Mark Lowe, Victor Mateo and Sam Runion, all of whom receive invitations to major-league camp. Also signed to minor-league deals were C Mayo Acosta, RHPs Mike Colla, Eduar Quinonez, Albert Suarez.

 

 

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Niemann becomes a free agent

The Rays were most likely going to cut RHP Jeff Niemann loose at the Dec. 2 deadline rather than tender him a contract and be bound by arbitration, so they instead made the move Monday.

Niemann was outrighted off the 40-man roster and then elected free agency.

The move allows Niemann to explore the free-agent market sooner, and also preserves the possibility of him re-signing with the Rays.

Niemann, who turns 31 in February, missed all of last season after having shoulder surgery, and it is unclear at what point during the season he will be ready to return.

Niemann made $3-million last season, and $2.75-million the year before when pitching only 38 innings, as he sustained a broken right leg after being hit by a batted ball May 14 and made only one start upon return.

 

 

 

 

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Reliever Mark Lowe signed to minor-league deal

The Rays picked up a potential new addition to their bullpen in agreeing to a minor-league deal with hard-throwing right-hander Mark Lowe.

Lowe, 30, has pitched parts of eight seasons in the majors as a middle reliever with the Mariners, Rangers and Angels, compiling a 4.17 ERA. He gave up the walkoff homer to St. Louis' David Freese in Game 6 of the 2011 World Series.

The Rays talked to Lowe last off-season but he signed with the Dodgers. He ended up opting out of that deal and joining the Angels, got let go in late May after 11 appearances, then signed with Washington but pitched only at Triple-A.

The signing was first reported Saturday by ESPN's Jerry Crasnick.

Also, the Rays re-signed minor-league free agent pitchers Victor Mateo, Eduar Quinonez, Albert Suarez.

 

End

 

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Rays build a playground in Tarpon Springs

Rays principal owner Stuart Sternberg, Carmen Wilson of Citizen's Alliance and Tarpon Springs Mayor David O. Archie put the finishing touches on the playground sign.

TIMES PHOTO / MARC TOPKIN

Rays principal owner Stuart Sternberg, Carmen Wilson of Citizen's Alliance and Tarpon Springs Mayor David O. Archie put the finishing touches on the playground sign.

   Rays employees led by principal owner Stuart Sternberg spent most of Saturday in Tarpon Springs building a playground at the Union Academy Family Center. 

   The Rays partnered with volunteers from Citizens Alliance for Progress, Inc, and organizers from KaBOOM! as more than 200 people teamed for the one-day build, the fourth such project the team has done around the Tampa Bay area.

   Tarpon Springs Mayor David O. Archie thanked the Rays and presented Stermberg with a key to the city. Sternberg lauded the volunteers and said the organization takes as much pride in these type of community projects as any success on the field.

 

 

 

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MLB owners move closer to expanded replay system

"This is quite historic,'' commissioner Bud Selig said. "We have the greatest game in the world, but we have to continue to make adjustments.''

AP photo

"This is quite historic,'' commissioner Bud Selig said. "We have the greatest game in the world, but we have to continue to make adjustments.''

Major-league owners took another significant step toward adopting a vastly expanded instant replay system for next season that will include showing the replays to fans at the stadiums.

Final approval is expected in January, after agreements are reached with the players and umpires union and related rule changes are adopted.

"This is quite historic,'' commissioner Bud Selig said. "We have the greatest game in the world, but we have to continue to make adjustments.''

Not all the details have been finalized, but the basic framework of the system is set:

Managers will have a maximum of two challenges per game; if they are right they keep the challenge, if they are wrong they lose it. Managers will come on to the field to initiate a challenge; there will be no flags like in football. Reviews will be conducted in New York by a crew of current or former umpires, and their ruling will be communicated to the on-field umpires, one of whom during the break will put on a headset. If a manager is out of challenges, the on-field crew likely will be able to ask for a review on its own if warranted. The replays will be shown on stadium video boards and TV broadcasts

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