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Tampa Bay Rays likely to face arbitration hearing with Dioner Navarro

ST. PETERSBURG — Catcher Dioner Navarro appeared headed to an arbitration hearing barring a late change in negotiations before the Rays' self-imposed noon deadline today, and shortstop Jason Bartlett and infielder Willy Aybar could be, too.

"The latest update is that I think we're done talking," Kendall Almerico, Navarro's agent, said Monday evening. "Right now, it's not going to happen, and it looks like we're going to a hearing. We're working at it, but it looks like it's not going to happen."

Players and teams are set to exchange figures today, and under executive vice president Andrew Friedman, the Rays have a policy of ending talks at that point and proceeding to a February hearing. That has happened twice in his tenure, with the Rays prevailing over backup catcher Josh Paul both times. (They've had one other case in their history, beating pitcher Esteban Yan in 2002.)

"Our goal is always to avoid a hearing with each player, and we will continue working toward that effort until we file numbers," senior vice president Gerry Hunsicker said about 9 p.m.

The stakes will be higher with Navarro, who after a season that included an All-Star appearance is in line for a raise to the $2 million to $2.5 million range in his first year of arbitration eligibility. He made $412,500 last season.

Bartlett could approach $2 million after a season in which he was voted team MVP on the basis of his defensive contributions while making $416,600. He said via text message Monday night: "Haven't heard anything yet."

Aybar, a reserve, is likely to get around $1 million.

More Rays news:

• Eight Rays were included on preliminary 45-man rosters for the World Baseball Classic teams released Monday, but not all will participate. Infielder Akinori Iwamura (Japan), RHP Grant Balfour (Australia), LHPs J.P. Howell and Scott Kazmir (U.S.), and first baseman Carlos Pena (Dominican Republic) are expected to play.

Navarro told Venezuelan officials he was not willing to play, and the Rays said RHP Matt Garza (Mexico) was ineligible because of offseason foot surgery. Third baseman Evan Longoria is on the U.S. roster but said he didn't expect to be picked because the team included Chipper Jones and David Wright.

• Ex-Rays outfielder Jonny Gomes, a fan and team favorite who was nontendered, agreed to a minor-league deal with the Reds. He expects to compete for the leftfield opening and will get $600,000 if he makes the big-league team, plus has $200,000 in incentives.

ORIOLES: Rightfielder Nick Markakis reached a preliminary agreement on a $66 million, six-year deal. Markakis, 25, was third in the AL with a .406 on-base percentage and reached base a league-high 283 times last season.

PHILLIES: RH reliever Ryan Madson reached a preliminary agreement on a $12 million, three-year contract.

Information from the Associated Press was used in this report.

Tampa Bay Rays likely to face arbitration hearing with Dioner Navarro 01/19/09 [Last modified: Tuesday, January 20, 2009 9:05am]

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