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Merit no concern to Rays' All-Star

Lance Carter is looking forward to going to the All-Star Game.

And he knows some people will be wondering what he's doing there.

"I'm sure there will be all kinds of questions about whether or not I deserve to be the one going," Carter said Tuesday. "I didn't make the decision."

AL manager Mike Scioscia and MLB officials did, picking Carter after they used the available at-large player slot to select Detroit's Dmitri Young rather than Tampa Bay's Rocco Baldelli or Aubrey Huff.

Carter said the two days since his selection have been hectic as he has tried to arrange transportation and game tickets for his wife, parents, brother and sister and answered congratulatory phone calls. He also got a gift basket from his agent.

He won't, however, get any extra money, one of a small group of All-Stars who doesn't have a bonus clause in his contract. The Rays this season dropped all incentive clauses for players with less than three years' major-league service time.

Even while he works out the logistics, Carter said he probably won't fully realize he's an All-Star until he gets to Chicago.

"It probably won't sink in until I get out there for the home run derby and take in the festivities," he said.

SEAY YA: When left-handed reliever Bobby Seay was activated off the disabled list June 3 and sent directly to Triple-A Durham, he figured he would be with the Bulls for a while and moved into an apartment.

"I just felt I was going to be there until the end of the season," Seay said.

When the Rays designated Mike Venafro for assignment June 26 and didn't replace him with another lefty, Seay didn't know what to think.

But Sunday he got word he was headed back to the big leagues.

"I'm elated to be back," he said. "This is where I want to be."

ALL RIGHT: The Rays are in the midst of facing left-handed starters in five consecutive games. That not only creates a bit of a problem as their key hitters are predominantly left-handed, but it further illustrates their need for a power-hitting right-hander.

"It is unusual, and it's a challenge to us," manager Lou Piniella said. "Early in the year we were about .500 against lefties, but that's changed here in the last month or so (7-13 overall).

"We don't have much right-handed hitting here. You can see what our priorities are going to be this winter; it's starting to become very evident."

Not that the offseason wish list will be limited to right-handed sluggers.

"There's no area here that doesn't need to be strengthened," Piniella said. "We might have a little more depth in some areas than others, but that doesn't mean they can't be strengthened."

LAND OF OPPORTUNITY: One player who will get a chance to show what he can do against the lefties is right-handed hitting infielder Antonio Perez.

"We're going to give him some playing time and hopefully he'll respond and swing the bat," Piniella said. "We've got to find out about Antonio. We'll see whether this young man can become a regular or if we can count on him as a good utility player. As far as he's concerned we've got to answer those questions."

MISCELLANY: How big a deal is Piniella's return to Seattle? Two Seattle newspapers and two TV stations had reporters in Oakland on Tuesday. Carl Crawford said the appeal of his three-day suspension, and Marlon Anderson's, won't be heard until September in New York. The team's Rays of Hope Foundation has established a $2,500 annual scholarship that will be awarded to a top minority student-athlete in the name of Hall of Famer Monte Irvin. The award will be made in partnership with the NAACP.

_ MARC TOPKIN

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