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Johnny Damon, B.J. Upton say they want to return to Tampa Bay Rays

ST. PETERSBURG — The two highest profile Rays with uncertain futures — CF B.J. Upton and DH Johnny Damon — both said they hope to be back with the team.

Damon, who will be a free agent, has raved about the experience of playing for the Rays and near his Orlando home. He had a one-year, $5.25 million deal.

"I don't even feel like packing anything up," he said. "I felt like this was the perfect fit. … I would love to be back."

Upton, the subject of trade rumors during the season, reiterated his preference to remain a part of the Rays core. He is in line to make about $7 million through arbitration in his final season before free agency.

"I'm hoping I'm back," he said. "That's out of my hands, I've got nothing to do with that. But I've grown up with a lot of these guys, and the guys we've acquired, I enjoy being around them. So hopefully next February I'm still in a Rays uniform."

Other free agents are 1B Casey Kotchman and RHP Juan Cruz. The Rays hold options on RHP Kyle Farnsworth ($3.3 million) and C Kelly Shoppach ($3.2 million). Arbitration eligibles include LHP J.P. Howell, RHP Jeff Niemann, RHP Joel Peralta and LHP David Price.

COACHING CAROUSEL: All coaches contracts are up, but manager Joe Maddon said he expected most if not all to return, aside from the possibility of bench coach Dave Martinez leaving for a managing job. He is considered a top candidate for the White Sox post and may surface as a possibility with the Red Sox.

"We had little discussions along the way with everybody, and that's something that (executive VP Andrew Friedman) and I have to get together on in the next couple days," Maddon said. "I don't anticipate a lot of changes. We've got to wait and see what happens with Davey; that would institute or cause some movement."

Bullpen coach Bobby Ramos, who left the team midseason for undisclosed medical reasons, checked in with Maddon via text message Monday and said he was feeling better. Maddon said he didn't know if Ramos would return; Stan Boroski has been filling in.

CROWD CONTROL: The crowd of 28,299 fell about 4,500 short of a sellout, the first time in 12 postseason games the Rays didn't fill the Trop.

TEXAS TWO-STEP: Since 2005, the Rays are 20-9 against the Rangers at the Trop in the regular season but are 0-5 in the playoffs, scoring eight runs total and batting .167.

HOWELL HANGOVER: Maddon defended Howell and scolded the fans for booing him after giving up a two-run single in the seventh inning of the Game 3 loss.

"It's really wrong. It's wrong. I don't understand why the folks would have gone there on him (Monday)," Maddon said. "It's inappropriate. Here's a guy that was a big part of our World Series run, is coming off of a severe injury and has done some really good work this year."

Maddon also insisted it was wrong to blame Howell primarily for the 4-3 loss: "To lay all of that on J.P. is absolutely insane as far as I'm concerned."

MISCELLANY: The Rays are 11-14 in postseason play, and have lost their last five home games, all to Texas. … The Rays were the first team since the 2007 Rockies (Ubaldo Jimenez and Franklin Morales) and 10th overall to start two rookie pitchers in a postseason series.

Johnny Damon, B.J. Upton say they want to return to Tampa Bay Rays 10/04/11 [Last modified: Thursday, October 6, 2011 1:06pm]

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