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UP NEXT: WHITE SOX

SCOUTING REPORT: The White Sox team coming into Tropicana Field is a different one than a week ago.

Chicago was the first team to strike in the trading game, picking up veterans Roberto Alomar from the Mets and Carl Everett from Texas this week.

"Just before they (play) us," Rays manager Lou Piniella said. "It gives them two nice veteran bats. Two switch-hitters. Those were nice moves for them."

This is Chicago's attempt to catch the leaders in the AL Central. Chicago has been toiling around .500 most of the season, but the Twins, last season's division winner, and the Royals, one of baseball's surprise teams, have not pulled away.

The Rays will face one of the top pitchers in the majors Saturday, Esteban Loaiza. After being picked up for a mere $500,000 last winter, Loaiza is 11-3 with a 2.18 ERA.

DISABLED LIST: LHP Kelly Wunsch.

CONNECTIONS: Rays reliever Al Levine broke in with the White Sox in 1996. Tampa Bay catcher Javier Valentin is the brother of White Sox infielder Jose Valentin. Rays hitting coach Lee Elia started in the majors with the White Sox in 1966. White Sox reliever Rick White and infielder Tony Graffanino are former Rays. Everett grew up in Tampa.

OVERALL SERIES: This is the first series of the season between the teams. Chicago leads overall 26-19, including 4-3 last season and 13-10 all-time at Tropicana Field.

_ TOM JONES

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