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Rays may be near deal with top draft pick Beckham

ST. PETERSBURG — Top draft pick Tim Beckham will be at Tropicana Field this afternoon and could be a Ray by the end of the day.

"We're going to look at what the team has to offer," Jimmy Beckham, Tim's father, said Wednesday night. "If it's what we've heard over the telephone, hopefully we'll get a deal done. Hopefully. … Everything we've heard sounds good. It's just a matter of getting together face to face."

Both the family and the team expressed interest in signing quickly after the June 5 draft, with the idea of getting Beckham, a star at Griffin (Ga.) High, playing as soon as possible.

Tim's older brother, Jeremy, has already signed and reported to the rookie-level Princeton (W.Va.) team, and the two could be teammates by next week.

"Playing baseball is what Tim likes to do, and I don't want to keep him from it," Jimmy Beckham said. "But it's also a business."

Beckham declined to discuss specifics of the offer. The last high school player picked No. 1 overall was Justin Upton (younger brother of B.J.), by Arizona in 2005, and he got a then-record $6.1-million bonus with a minor-league contract.

Rays executive vice president Andrew Friedman, per policy, said Wednesday night only that, "Discussions are ongoing."

READY TO ROLL: The Rays have no doubts that RHP James Shields, who gets fired up for a normal game, is going to be ready to pitch tonight when he makes his first start in nine days, having served a six-game suspension.

But what they are curious about is how Shields (4-5, 3.91) is going to pitch, having gone five starts, and more than a month, since his last win, a May 9 one-hit shutout of the Angels.

"I have no concerns about him, he's throwing the ball fine," manager Joe Maddon said. "The biggest thing I'm seeing is getting the fastball where he wants to. … His velocity has been good, his changeup's been good, when he breaks out the curve it's been good, the cutter, all his pitches have been there.

"For whatever reason, his fastball command to me is the key to his success. It hasn't been as crispy as it had been last year, but I know it's there."

ON-DECK CIRCLE: Having the status of her pregnancy discussed by team officials and in the newspaper might not be the most comfortable position, but Jason Bartlett said his wife, Kelly, knows the timing of the delivery could be an issue that affects the team.

"She understands," Bartlett said. "And she knows we're shooting for the 25th (to induce labor), though I think she wants him to come early. And all the coaches and everybody have been great, saying the baby and your family come first."

FULL CARD: The Rays played with a full complement of position players, thus four players on the bench, for the first time in almost two weeks as LF Carl Crawford returned from his suspension, reaching base three times and looking fresh, and 2B Akinori Iwamura delayed his by appealing.

ROCCO ROCKIN': OF Rocco Baldelli hit two solo homers in his second rehab game for Class A Vero Beach. Baldelli, 3-for-6 as a DH in his first two games, is trying to come back after being sidelined by a rare condition that causes muscle fatigue in his legs. He will play again Friday then be re-evaluated.

MISCELLANY: The 42 wins match the most the Rays have ever had before the All-Star break, going 42-45 in 2004. … 1B Carlos Pena continues to progress in recovering from a fractured left index finger, taking 25 swings (soft toss or off a tee) and throwing a tennis ball. … The Rays are 12-7 in one-run games. … The Rays today will detail plans to renovate the fields at the South Brandon Little League. … The Rays posted a SUT sign in tribute to ESPN broadcaster Rick Sutcliffe, who is recovering at home from colon cancer surgery.

Rays may be near deal with top draft pick Beckham 06/18/08 [Last modified: Thursday, June 19, 2008 7:16am]
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