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With Carlos Peña likely gone, Tampa Bay Rays will stay flexible

With Carlos Peña apparently on the way out, the Rays will turn their attention to other options at first base.

DIRK SHADD | Times

With Carlos Peña apparently on the way out, the Rays will turn their attention to other options at first base.

From the look of things, Carlos Peña is not coming back to the Rays.

With Adam Dunn going from the Nationals to the White Sox, and with Adrian Gonzalez now heading to the Red Sox instead of elsewhere, Peña seems unlikely to return, probably headed to Washington to replace Dunn, with the Cubs and O's other possibilities.

And while the Rays may have wanted Peña back on certain terms, it will be good for them to know if he is indeed moving on, so they can, too, with other options.

The Rays prefer to operate on the lowdown anyway, but even if they wanted to share their strategy this offseason, it would be hard for them to name names.

That's not because they don't have a plan, but because they have several. The most telling words exec VP Andrew Friedman may have said at last week's pre-winter meetings media session were "patient" and "nimble."

The reality is the Rays have to be both, as they sort through myriad scenarios.

Part is financial, as, with payroll being cut, they weigh how much better they'd be with, say, a $50 million payroll vs. $35 million. And some has to do with the players — theirs and others — as they decide who is worth waiting for, who to be aggressive with, how to synchronize the dueling priorities of needs and wants.

With Peña leaving, for example, they have to sift through numerous options at first base: internally (Dan Johnson or Ben Zobrist), free agents, trades. But at least they'd know.

MADDON MANIA: As a kickoff to his annual Thanks-mas charity event, manager Joe Maddon on Thursday will be the guest chef and bartender at South Tampa's 717 South restaurant, joined behind the bar by coaches Tom Foley, Jim Hickey, Derek Shelton and Don Zimmer. All tips go toward the cause as Maddon, for the fifth straight year, cooks and serves food to the needy. Stops are Dec. 13 at the Sallie House in St. Petersburg, then Salvation Army offices in Fort Myers on Dec. 14, St. Petersburg on Dec. 15 and Tampa on Dec. 16. He's also giving out hooded sweatshirts.

RAYS RUMBLINGS: LHP J.P. Howell, nontendered but expected to re-sign, is confident of a return to top form after shoulder surgery: "At this point, I have zero doubt." … If the Padres are going to trade closer Heath Bell, the Rays have long been interested. … The draysbay.com bloggers are taking donations for an ad (full disclosure, to run in our tbt* publication) thanking Carl Crawford for his contributions. … Sounds like there will be new AstroTurf at the Trop. … SS Troy Tulowitzki's unexpected seven-year, $132 million extension with the Rockies isn't bad for the Rays, but given that 3B Evan Longoria is his best friend, has the same agent and a team-friendly contract, it can't be good. … C Justin O'Conner, the 31st pick last year, needed surgery to repair a torn hip labrum, but he will be ready for the season. … Mark Vinson was promoted to the major-league athletic training staff, replacing departed Nick Paparesta.

MORE RUMBLINGS: SS Jason Bartlett took a well-timed vacation last week, getting away from his phone and computer during the slew of trade rumors. "A good thing right now," he texted. ... After taking $16 million over two seasons from the Rays, Pat Burrell re-signed with the Giants for $1 million because "at this point for me, it's about being happy and being in a place where you enjoy the players, the staff and the organization." … Raysbaseball.com beat writer Bill Chastain, after authoring several sports books, has produced his first novel, the Peachtree Corvette Club.

With Carlos Peña likely gone, Tampa Bay Rays will stay flexible 12/04/10 [Last modified: Saturday, December 4, 2010 8:27pm]

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