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Tampa Bay Rays feel upbeat as winter meetings end

LAS VEGAS — The Rays didn't make an offer to Milton Bradley, Jason Giambi or any of the other free agent designated hitter types on their list before leaving Thursday and might wait for the market to develop further before doing so.

But executive vice president Andrew Friedman said they felt good about what they heard during the winter meetings and they should be "competitive" in their bidding.

Bradley and Giambi, with whom Friedman and manager Joe Maddon met this week, appear to top their list. Bobby Abreu, Pat Burrell, Adam Dunn and Raul Ibanez are also candidates as are Juan Rivera and, though less likely, Ken Griffey.

"We're still going through our methodical process, but we've conveyed to certain agents that if something picks up on their end that we can move quickly," Friedman said.

"Our resources are somewhat finite. I think it's unrealistic for us to come over the top and blow the top off the market and preempt the market to get a deal done. But I think we'll be competitive. I guess I should insert the caveat that I hope we're competitive, but I expect that we will be with at least a couple of guys. It all depends on the overall interest out there and how competitive the market gets, and that's something I don't think has really crystallized so far."

It might take a while for that to happen as there are a number of teams, including the Cubs and Phillies, looking at the same group of hitters and others, such as the Angels, which might be depending on what happens on other fronts, such as signing Mark Teixeira.

PITCHING IN: The Rays are looking to add some young relievers to have some roster flexibility in the bullpen and might have found one by taking RHP Derek Rodriguez from the White Sox in the Rule 5 draft.

Rodriguez, 25, went 5-2 with a 3.29 ERA in 49 appearances for Double-A Birmingham and Triple-A Charlotte in his first season as a reliever, striking out 88 in 791/3 innings and allowing only a .191 average.

"We feel like he's got an advanced feel for pitching," Friedman said. "He changes arm angles. He changes speeds. He misses bats. We've got a number of reports that he makes hitters uncomfortable in the box with the different things he does."

As a Rule 5 pick, Rodriguez has to be kept in the majors all season or offered back to Chicago.

The Rays lost one as RHP Eduardo Morlan was taken by the Brewers.

Morlan was touted when acquired last year from the Twins in the Delmon Young deal but experienced a drop in velocity.

TENDER MOMENT: Contracts have to be offered to all players by midnight with OF Jonny Gomes the most likely of the six remaining arbitration-eligible players to be nontendered and, thus, become a free agent. The five the Rays will go through the process with are: INF Willy Aybar, RHP Grant Balfour, SS Jason Bartlett, OF Gabe Gross and C Dioner Navarro.

Marc Topkin can be reached at [email protected]

Tampa Bay Rays feel upbeat as winter meetings end 12/11/08 [Last modified: Friday, December 12, 2008 7:16am]
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