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Top pick LeVon Washington, family say Tampa Bay Rays didn't want to sign him

ST. PETERSBURG — After failing to reach agreement by Monday's deadline to sign draft picks, the Rays said they tried, moved on and wished top choice LeVon Washington well.

The feeling apparently isn't mutual.

Washington said Wednesday the lack of a deal was the Rays' "choice," and his father accused the team of failing to negotiate in good faith.

Washington told the Times there wasn't much to discuss. "I'm done with it," he said. "It's a business. It was their choice. I'll be back in the draft next year."

In comments to the Gainesville Sun/Gatorsports.com, Victor Washington claimed the Rays didn't abide by a predraft agreement and wouldn't "budge" from an offer of slot value, which Baseball America estimated at $1.08 million. (SI.com reported Wednesday the Rays offered $1.1 million.)

"I'm convinced that they didn't want to sign him," Victor Washington said.

The Rays, who said the gap in negotiations was too large, replied with a statement from spokesman Rick Vaughn: "We do not comment on specifics of negotiations but we definitely had every intention of signing LeVon and wish him all the best going forward."

Victor Washington said the Rays agreed before the draft to pay a bonus "above slot," which was the only reason LeVon, who was coming off shoulder surgery, agreed to work out for them, but waited too long and didn't offer enough. "They chose not to budge," Victor Washington said. "They didn't even meet the terms of the agreement."

The Sun reported that Washington failed to meet academic requirements to attend Florida and is looking to play at a junior college, which would allow him to re-enter the draft next year.

MINOR-LEAGUER IMPROVING: The condition of Montgomery LHP Darin Downs, the minor-leaguer hit on the head by a line drive Monday, is improving.

Downs remains hospitalized in Birmingham, Ala., with a reported skull fracture, but the Rays said he was moved out of the intensive care unit to a regular room. He visited with family and his fiancee Wednesday, and the family is optimistic about his recovery.

WELCOME BACK: Given that he made only 11 appearances in the three weeks between recovering from elbow surgery and being sidelined by back stiffness, RHP Chad Bradford said after being activated Wednesday he feels like his season is just starting.

"I feel like I haven't been back all year," he said. "Just trying to get out there and feel comfortable and get back in a groove, which I really hadn't been in. … So I'm anxious to get out there and stay out there and contribute."

REHAB REPORT: 2B Akinori Iwamura (left knee) is expected back in action for Triple-A Durham tonight after leaving Tuesday's game in the third inning due to what the Rays said was muscle fatigue. "There was no reinjury," manager Joe Maddon said. "His legs got kind of heavy, I'm sure it was all the activity. He just felt fatigued.''

MISCELLANY: With an Even More Affordable night crowd of 18,474, the Rays sold 24,000 50-cent hot dogs (compared to 3,000 on similar nights), 4,000 $1 Cracker Jack and 1,000 bags of $1 peanuts. … Having three 20-homer players (Ben Zobrist, Evan Longoria and Carlos Peña) matches the team record. … The Rays are 14-2-1 in their past 17 home series. … O's RF Nick Markakis' streak of reaching base ended at 38 games. … Head athletic trainer Ron Porterfield and staff hosted 80-100 kids Wednesday afternoon as part of the PBATS PLAY program — Promoting a Lifetime of Activity for Youth. … LHP J.P. Howell signs autographs at Grow Financial (6900 Park Blvd., Pinellas Park) from 11 to noon today.

Top pick LeVon Washington, family say Tampa Bay Rays didn't want to sign him 08/19/09 [Last modified: Thursday, August 20, 2009 9:11am]
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