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Glut gone, Rays begin search for outfielder

TAMPA — For years, the Rays were known for their glut of outfielders.

But after last week's acknowledgement that they'll be without Rocco Baldelli indefinitely, following the offseason trades of Delmon Young, Jason Pridie and Elijah Dukes, they now find themselves actively looking for help.

Executive vice president Andrew Friedman said that even before the Baldelli situation crystallized, they had been "extremely active" in going through different options, as they do for all positions. And when it became more obvious Baldelli wouldn't be available, they "kind of expedited" their efforts.

"There's a lot of different options out there, and we'll see if we're able to bring someone in before the season starts," Friedman said Saturday. "And if we're not, we'll go with someone internally and continue to do that depending on how everyone's playing."

Some free-agent options are available, such as Kenny Lofton and, of course, Barry Bonds. But the Rays seem more likely to first explore trade possibilities, with names to keep in mind including Dave Dellucci (Indians), Gabe Gross (Brewers), Skip Schumaker (Cardinals), Reggie Willits (Angels) and, less likely, Reed Johnson (Blue Jays).

Ideally, they'd get a left-handed hitter (or, heck, why not a switch-hitter) who can play all three outfield positions (and be a nice complement to right-handed hitting, and left-handed-pitching-killing Jonny Gomes in rightfield), has options remaining (to maintain roster flexibility) and doesn't make much money.

But with two weeks until opening day, they will have to consider peeling back some of their preferences. Or decide they're better off at least starting the season with an in-camp option, such as Jon Weber or John Rodriguez, and re-evaluate in a month or so.

"We've got to loosen some of those constraints and try to find the best fit for us (today) because it is late, and it's not as fluid as things are in November," Friedman said. "We're going to have to come up with the best scenario we can."

The Rays could have a valuable commodity to offer, a young (and pre-arbitration) starting pitcher, such as Edwin Jackson, Jason Hammel or Andy Sonnanstine, but might be less willing to do that right now with Scott Kazmir's status uncertain. (Or maybe they could reswap J.P. Howell for Joey Gathright?)

"We don't look at it that by March 31 we have to have someone," Friedman said. "In an ideal world, we'd like to go with the person on March 31 we expect to be there the entire season, but that said, we're not going to make an emotional decision if it's not something that makes sense for us."

Welcome news: Triple-A Durham manager Charlie Montoyo is expected to report to camp this week with extraordinary news — his infant son, Alex, released from the hospital Friday five months after being born with a heart defect and headed to their Arizona home.

Rays rumblings: A decision on 3B Evan Longoria could be made by the end of the week, and it still looks from here that he's headed to Durham. … Baseball America pegs the Rays to finish fourth in the AL East, saying they "could cross the .500 mark for the first time," and picks Longoria as AL rookie of the year. … The Rays say a Los Angeles Times report that they bid for the 2010 All-Star Game was news to them. … In talking to SI.com about the need for a new stadium, Rays exec Michael Kalt referred to Tropicana Field as a "UFO." … Conspiracy theorists expected trouble Wednesday when the Yankees a) didn't bring stars Derek Jeter and Alex Rodriguez on one of their shortest spring road trips and b) scratched scheduled starter Andy Pettitte for a seemingly minor reason.

>>Fast facts

Roster report

The fifth of our weekly guesses on the makeup

of the 25-man opening-day roster:

Pitchers (12): Scott Dohmann, Matt Garza, Gary Glover, Jason Hammel,

J.P. Howell, Edwin Jackson, Trever Miller, Troy Percival, Al Reyes, James Shields, Andy Sonnanstine, Dan Wheeler

Catchers (2): Dioner Navarro, Mike Difelice

Infielders (6): Willy Aybar, Jason Bartlett, Joel Guzman, Akinori Iwamura, Elliot Johnson, Carlos Pena

Outfielders (5): Carl Crawford, Cliff Floyd, Jonny Gomes, B.J. Upton, Jon Weber

DL (4): Rocco Baldelli, Scott Kazmir, Shawn Riggans, Ben Zobrist

Marc Topkin,

Times staff writer

Glut gone, Rays begin search for outfielder 03/15/08 [Last modified: Thursday, March 20, 2008 9:57am]
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