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Rays cut Rupe, add 7 to roster

The Devil Rays released starting pitcher Ryan Rupe and designated reliever Steve Kent and minor-league infielder Jace Brewer for assignment Wednesday as the club filled its 40-man roster.

Seven minor-league players, including 1999 first-round draft pick Josh Hamilton and St. Petersburg native Doug Waechter, were added to the roster.

"We had a lot of tough decisions to make concerning protecting as many of our young players as possible," Rays general manager Chuck LaMar said. "That led us to make a decision with Ryan. I called him and thanked him for everything he's done for the organization."

Rupe, who was arbitration eligible, went 5-10 with a 5.60 ERA in 15 starts last season. Tendinitis in his right knee put him on the disabled list twice and required surgery that ended his season in August.

The first Rays draft pick to reach the majors in May 1999, the right-hander had a 23-37 record and 5.84 ERA in 85 games over the past four seasons.

"When healthy he's shown signs of being a competitive major-league pitcher," LaMar said. "At times he has fought inconsistencies. The combination of injuries, the inconsistency, young players to protect and being arbitration eligible all led to the decision."

As a Rule 5 rookie last season, Kent went 0-2 with one save and a 5.65 ERA in 34 appearances for Tampa Bay. Brewer batted .277 with 22 doubles and 60 RBIs in 130 games between Class A Bakersfield and Double-A Orlando last season. The Rays have 10 days to trade, release or ask waivers on Brewer and Kent.

In addition to Hamilton, an outfielder, and Waechter, a pitcher, those added to the 40-man roster were pitchers Brian Stokes, Seth McClung, Gerardo Garcia and Hans Smith and catcher Pete LaForest.

Expos to play in San Juan

IRVING, Texas _ Montreal will play 22 of its 81 home games in Puerto Rico next season, and the Athletics and Mariners will start the season with the major leagues' second opening in Japan.

Expos president Tony Tavares said that with the guaranteed income from the games in San Juan, his team will not have to conduct a "fire sale." He did not reveal the planned payroll.

The Expos will play three homestands at Hiram Bithorn Stadium in San Juan. The first series is April 11-14 against the Mets.

Selig also formed a marketing task force after drops in regular-season attendance and World Series television ratings.

WELLS CASE: David Wells' personal trainer testified in New York that a man taunted the player about ordering an egg-white omelet before punching Wells at a Manhattan diner.

Trainer Scott Yeckinevich testified that after he and Wells ordered omelets and waffles, defendant Rocco Graziosa made a profanity-laced taunt about the pitcher's girth, saying "Why don't you order a cheeseburger?"

D'BACKS-ROCKIES TRADE: Top Rockies officials met for more than three hours with Matt Williams and his agent to try to persuade the third baseman to accept a trade from the Diamondbacks.

The teams have agreed to a deal that would send Larry Walker to Arizona for Williams and three other players. Walker and Williams must waive no-trade clauses by midday Friday.

CUBS: Free-agent first baseman Jim Thome and his agent, Pat Rooney, met with general manager Jim Hendry at Wrigley Field.

GIANTS: San Francisco claimed infielder Neifi Perez off waivers from the Royals.

METS: Free-agent left-hander Tom Glavine is expected to meet today with team officials, who want to show him areas he could live if he signs.

PHILLIES: Free-agent third basemen David Bell spent his third night in Philadelphia while agent Tom Reich and the team continued contract negotiations.

RANGERS: Outfielder Rusty Greer had surgery to repair a significant tear of his left rotator cuff. Recovery time is expected to be about 12 months.

_ Information from Times wires was used in this report.