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Rays must make decisions as deadline looms

CLEVELAND — The Rays insist they are a better offensive team than they've showed and are confident they'll be more productive in the second half of the season. Manager Joe Maddon thinks so, LF Carl Crawford thinks so, 1B Carlos Pena thinks so.

Executive vice president Andrew Friedman might think so, too. But he has to decide whether to do something about it — specifically making a trade by the July 31 nonwaiver deadline to add a bat, most likely a right-handed hitting rightfielder.

The Rays' lack of consistent offense has made for a steady flow of trade rumors, some involving big-name — and high-priced — players such as Colorado's Matt Holliday.

But what makes more sense is for the Rays to acquire more of a role or platoon player to start against left-handed pitchers, balancing the quality production they've gotten from Eric Hinske against right-handers (.280 average, .361 on-base percentage, 13 homers, 14 doubles and 41 RBIs in 193 at-bats). Jonny Gomes, who homered in his first at-bat Thursday, could be that guy.

But if they decide to add, likely possibilities include Pittsburgh's Xaiver Nady (and, less likely, the more prominent Jason Bay), Oakland's (and previously the Cubs') Matt Murton, and Cleveland's Casey Blake.

"There's a fine line between patience and stubbornness," Friedman said. "We feel like we've got a number of players who haven't clicked yet but that are more than capable of doing that, and there is a lot of season left to do that.

"We have a number of guys whose past performance suggests there is more to come in the second half. But we still have a responsibility to thoroughly examine the marketplace to see if there is someone out there that clearly makes us better."

The Rays are also interested in adding another reliever with late-inning experience.

They have been mentioned in several reports as the frontrunners for Rockies left-hander Brian Fuentes but are also considering some right-handers. If reports that the Rockies have set a high price and would want Double-A Montgomery starters Wade Davis or Jeremy Hellickson are correct, the Rays will look elsewhere.

Other teams reportedly interested in Fuentes include the Yankees, Mets, Cardinals, Marlins, Red Sox and Angels.

SHIELDS on shields: James Shields is always hardest on himself, so even though he takes a three-game win streak into tonight's game, the bigger news is he's pleased with what he's doing.

"I'm pitching really well right now," he said. "All four of my pitches are good right now. I'm throwing them for strikes and getting ahead of hitters. My fastball command's been there the last three games, so that's a huge factor."

REHAB REPORT: RHP Al Reyes (shoulder tendinitis) allowed two hits and struck out one in a scoreless inning of work for Class A Vero Beach on Thursday in his second rehab appearance. The Rays expect him back after the All-Star break. … RHP Troy Percival (left hamstring strain) is feeling better and might throw off the mound this weekend, but it's not clear if he'll be ready by the first game after the break.

MISCELLANY: The Rays are 12-31 in Cleveland. … Assistant to the pitching coach Brian Anderson, a longtime Indians player and occasional TV analyst, joined the Rays for the series, offering insight on some of the hitters. … ESPN today will tape a "Sunday Conversation" with Maddon that will start airing on the 10:30 a.m. SportsCenter. … The Indians are expected to call up RHP Matt Ginter to start Saturday in place of the traded CC Sabathia.

Rays must make decisions as deadline looms 07/10/08 [Last modified: Wednesday, July 16, 2008 7:20pm]

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