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Tampa Bay Rays remain quiet in the trade market

SEATTLE — If the Rays are going to make a major trade by today's 4 p.m. deadline for nonwaiver deals, it's likely to be something that either gets brought up or revisited in the final hours.

Nothing was close as of Saturday evening, and there didn't appear to be any significant conversations on any of their prime players, though that could change as teams shift focus and seek alternatives with the deadline approaching.

CF B.J. Upton remains a possibility for teams such as the Braves seeking a frontline outfielder as well as the Nationals, and the Rays have pitching to offer, though it would come at a high cost. Veterans on one-year deals such as DH Johnny Damon and 1B Casey Kotchman might generate interest.

"We are active on a number of different fronts," executive VP Andrew Friedman said from St. Petersburg. "My guess is that our talks will go down to the deadline. Most everyone on our roster are guys we control beyond this season which obviously factors into the process."

Manager Joe Maddon said he hadn't heard from Friedman at all Saturday, thus didn't anticipate any deals. "No texts, no e-mails, no conversations, no nada," Maddon said. "There's no change. I've not heard anything."

As a result, Maddon said he expected to have the same roster after the deadline as he did on Saturday: "I really do."

ALEX'S L: Rookie RHP Alex Cobb was the first AL pitcher to go through his first seven starts (and no relief appearances) without a loss since Minnesota's Kevin Slowey in 2007. But eight was too much, as he lost despite a quality start (61/3 innings, 3 runs, 6 hits, 9 strikeouts): "I figured it would happen at some point."

Two batters after leadoff man Ichiro Suzuki's grounder went off his glove, Cobb ended another streak, allowing his first homer (to Dustin Ackley) since the second inning of his major-league debut, a span of 40 innings.

LONGO DROPPED: Maddon dropped 3B Evan Longoria to fifth in the order, the first time he has been that low since one 2009 appearance, in an attempt to boost his offense. In 27 games since his big weekend in Houston June 24-26, Longoria has hit .192 (19-for-97) and after Saturday's 0-for-2 is down to .231.

"He's been doing better accepting his walks overall (an MLB-high 17 since the All-Star break), though the month has not been a kind month, the last 30 days," Maddon said. "So just to give him a little different outlook on life."

REHAB REPORT: RHP Juan Cruz, out since July 18 with a groin strain, worked one inning for Class A Charlotte on Saturday, allowing two hits, striking out two and throwing 21 pitches. He is expected to rejoin the bullpen when eligible on Tuesday.

STANDING TALL: RHP Jeff Niemann doesn't have a really good explanation for why he has pitched so well since his late-June return from the disabled list, his solid 62/3-inning, career-high 11-strikeout outing in Friday's 8-0 win the latest example.

The lower-back strain that idled Niemann for six weeks hadn't been an issue before surfacing in his May 4 game, so it wasn't a reason for his 1-4, 5.74 start to the season. Nor does its healing explain his 4-0, 1.88 mark since returning, the product of better command of his fastball and break on his curve.

"Honestly, the first day I started throwing after that, it was like, 'Wow, something felt better.' Just playing catch with (Wade) Davis, I was like, 'The slider's actually sliding, the curveball was tighter,' " Niemann said. "Maybe it was just a well-needed reset time for me — get your body right, get your mind right."

MISCELLANY: 2B/RF Ben Zobrist extended his hitting streak to 10 games. … RHP Jeremy Hellickson plans to make more use today of his curveball as he gets more comfortable with his new grip.

Tampa Bay Rays remain quiet in the trade market 07/30/11 [Last modified: Saturday, July 30, 2011 11:36pm]

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