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Scouting director leaves for Marlins

Calling it the toughest baseball decision he's had to make in 15 years, Dan Jennings resigned as Rays scouting director Friday to become the Marlins' vice president of player personnel..

"I feel like I vested part of my soul coming over here and helping build this organization from the ground up," he said. "It's been a great seven years and this wouldn't be possible without the help of (general manager) Chuck LaMar."

Jennings was hired in 1995 and oversaw seven amateur drafts, with 21 players who were selected under his supervision making it to the majors.

"Our goal has been to build a championship club through scouting and player development," LaMar said in a statement. "Because of his efforts, I believe we are headed in the right direction."

PROBLEM DIAGNOSED: Rays second baseman Brent Abernathy returned to the lineup after sitting the previous two games so he could work with hitting coach Milt May. After a 3-for-48 slump, he went 3-for-5 with a triple and three RBI Friday.

"Hopefully I'll be able to start helping this club offensively. I haven't really been doing my job here the last few weeks," Abernathy said. "I've been working on my balance and my timing. I was getting out front, jumping at the ball. I don't know when it actually started taking place, but obviously things have been pretty ugly here for me of late."

SCOREBOARD SAYS: With the Yankees scoring 12 runs Friday, the Rays have allowed 10 or more runs 13 times this season. They also have scored 10 or more four times _ two of them losses, 20-12 and 12-11 to Toronto.

JUDGMENT DELAY: No announcement was made regarding the possible suspension of closer Esteban Yan for hitting Boston leftfielder Manny Ramirez in the left shoulder with a pitch July 18. An MLB spokesman said a decision is likely to be made Monday.

TRADE TALK: If the Giants were interested in Randy Winn before, they must be burning up LaMar's phone lines now.

With leftfielder Barry Bonds, centerfielder Tsuyoshi Shinjo and rightfielder Reggie Sanders out with hamstring injuries, San Francisco could use some outfield help.

Winn had three hits Friday night, giving him 33 in July, leading the AL. Ichiro Suzuki had 31 going into Seattle's Friday night game. Winn led the league in June with 42 hits.

The Giants, who also have some interest in Yan, might be willing to deal third baseman Pedro Feliz and cash because of the injuries.

CARL'S CREW: About 20 friends and family members held up signs and cheered leftfielder Carl Crawford during his first game at Tropicana Field.

"They came down from Houston to give me some support," he said. "It's always nice to see a familiar face in the stands."

He gave them something to cheer with a run-scoring triple in the fifth inning, but struck out twice, the second time to end the game.

Crawford has started all seven games since being called up from Triple-A Durham.

YANKEES' RIVERA ON DL: New York placed closer Mariano Rivera on the 15-day disabled list with a strained right shoulder.

Knowing Rivera was unavailable, Rays manager Hal McRae said, "Psychologically, I thought we had a chance. That didn't mean we were going to win the game, but we knew he wasn't in the pen."

RAYS BITS: The upper deck will be open tonight and Sunday. Tickets are $10 apiece. Florida Blood Services will be at tonight's and Sunday's games. Donors will receive a baseball cap, a voucher for a free lower-deck outfield seat at any Rays game and a wellness checkup, including a cholesterol screening.

_ KEVIN KELLY, BRUCE

LOWITT, MARC TOPKIN

OUTTA LEFTFIELD Not only do the Yankees draw fans to Tropicana Field, they also attract stars. Bucs receiver Keyshawn Johnson, a former New York Jet, watched Friday's game from general manager Chuck LaMar's suite behind home plate.

TONIGHT: RAYS VS. YANKEES

PITCHERS: Yankees _ Jeff Weaver (7-8, 3.88); Rays _ Travis Harper (3-6, 3.54).

TV/RADIO: FSN; WFLA-AM 970.

WORTH NOTING: Harper makes his fourth spot start this season. He is 1-2 with a 4.29 ERA in his previous starts. Weaver makes his fourth start for the Yankees this season. He is 2-5 with a 5.12 ERA lifetime against the Rays.

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