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Martinez undecided about next season

This season has played out relatively well for Tino Martinez, who has 21 home runs, 69 RBIs and a .263 average.

Now he has to decide whether he wants to play next season.

Martinez, who turns 37 in December, is contemplating retirement after a 15-season major-league career. And even if the Tampa native decides he does want to play, he'll only do so if it is a situation he'll enjoy.

"I haven't decided what I want to do," Martinez said. "I don't want to go play one more year just to go play. I'll go home during the winter and see how I feel, see if I have the drive to really start working out and get in really good shape. If I'm going to play I want to be able to put up big numbers again."

The Rays got Martinez at an incredible bargain this season, with St. Louis paying $7-million of his $7.5-million salary. The Rays won't exercise the $8.5-million option they hold for next season, but could be open to working out a lesser deal.

While the Tampa native might be lured by a team closer to contention, he enjoyed playing at home and likely would consider coming back if the team made improvements.

"I talked to him briefly the other day and I don't think he knows exactly what he wants to do next year," manager Lou Piniella said. "He's done fine. He's done about what we expected. And we've gotten some nice leadership out of him."

MINOR MATTERS: Options are dwindling as the Rays seek to find affiliates for their two Class A farm teams. If they don't have deals by Saturday, minor-league officials start making pairings.

The Rays are trying to bring their advanced A team back to the Florida State League, looking at openings in Sarasota and Brevard County, and maybe Fort Myers. Another option is Potomac in the Carolina League.

The low A team, which had been in Charleston, S.C., could move up the road to Columbia, S.C., where Capitol City plays, or may be headed to the Midwest League, which has openings in Clinton, Iowa, and Battle Creek, Mich.

SAY WOW: Add Martinez and Aubrey Huff, the Rays' top two home run hitters, to the list of people awed by Barry Bonds joining the 700 club.

"He's amazing," said Martinez, who has 320. "We've talked a lot this season about Fred McGriff going to get 500 home runs and what a great accomplishment and how many home runs that is, and this is 200 more home runs and then some because he's not done yet. You don't know what he's going to end up with."

Huff, with 95 home runs in about four full seasons, said it's hard to put what Bonds has done in context.

"I've got about 100," he said. "I can't imagine 600 more. I'd be playing until I'm 80."

SPRING FLING: Huff tends to hit much better in the second half of each season _ a difference of 37 points, .313 to .276 before the All-Star break, over his big-league career.

To combat that, the Rays are going to try to make him more ready for the first half. "I think what we'll do, to Huff's chagrin, next spring is to play him a little more than he has," said Piniella, noting he solved a similar problem that way in Seattle with Edgar Martinez.

Where Huff will play next season won't be determined until the Rays make acquisitions and know whether they have a hole at first or third base, at DH or in the outfield. "Whatever we need _ he's going to be our floater," Piniella said. "We might even let him manage."

FALL GUYS: The Rays are planning to send six players to the Arizona Fall League's Mesa Solar Sox: pitchers John Webb, Carlos Hines and Sam Walton; catcher Pete LaForest, and outfielders Delmon Young and Joey Gathright. Montgomery's Charlie Montoyo will manage the Sox.

MISCELLANY: B.J. Upton and Young were named to Baseball America's overall minor-league all-star team.

_ MARC TOPKIN, Times staff writer


The Devil Rays seemed to get cheated out of an out Friday, but manager Lou Piniella was willing to leave it up to the ultimate umpire. A stadium security worker got in the way as Jose Cruz chased Carlos Delgado's foul fly ball, but the umpires, after some discussion, ruled that it was not interference because the man didn't do it on purpose. "What if he did?" Piniella said. "I told them, "We'll know if he goes to confession.' "


NOTES: Kazmir, the 20-year-old rookie, is coming off a sensational start in Boston, striking out nine in six innings and beating Pedro Martinez. The Rays are monitoring his pitch counts because he has pitched a career-high 123 innings. Miller is known as much for his numerous tattoos as his pitching. He is 3-0 with a 3.50 ERA in four games against the Rays.