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DEVIL RAYS REPORT

HERE TO HELP: It is time to start looking ahead to next year and, as always, we don't envy the job the marketing department has to do to promote the team. In the spirit of fun, we offer some suggested 2005 marketing themes:

Let's Play Better.

Here We Go Again, Again.

We Score More Than the Bucs.

Shooting for .500.

Every Penny Helps _ It's a Tampa Bay thing.

At Least We're Playing.

Visit the Trop _ Free A/C and Lots of Room to Spread Out.

Join the Fun _ Especially If You Can Pitch.

SHE'LL DO IT AGAIN: Once Britney Spears gets this wedding thing worked out, she'll likely head to the family home in Louisiana. And when she does, she'll probably visit one of her favorite spots, the Extra Innings sports bar/club, which is owned by Rays scout Benny Latino.

Spears comes in enough, Latino said, that the regulars just let her be. She's always been nice, usually wears a ball cap (though not a Rays cap) and is somewhat low-key. Latino described her as: "Pretty, talented and very country."

A few years ago, pictures of a 20-year-old Spears dancing at the club made it into the National Enquirer. Latino has been interviewed by one of the British gossip mags about her.

"Maybe I can get her to come down and sing the national anthem and help our attendance," he said.

Latino has another Britney connection. Jason Alexander, the Louisiana man she married in January and then quickly changed her mind, occasionally works at the bar as a bouncer.

CEREAL CITY: The Rays first choice for their low Class A affiliate wasn't Battle Creek, Mich., but at least the players there should be able to start their days well. Battle Creek is home to the Kellogg Co., which means there should be plenty of Frosted Flakes and Fruit Loops to go around. In their spare time, players and staff can take the Cereal City USA factory tour. They also can work on a new name for the team, since we doubt they'll keep playing as the Battle Creek Yankees. Players with the new advanced A affiliate in Visalia, Calif., who will be known as Oaks, will be near the Sequoia National Park and, well, Fresno.

HUFF DADDY

He didn't start this way, but Aubrey Huff can finish the season in elite company. With a solid final week, Huff could become only the fourth active player to reach the milestone numbers of a .300 average, 30 homers and 100 RBIs in each of his first two full seasons. A look:

First Second

Player, team full season full season

Vladimir Guerrero, Expos .324-38-109 .316-42-131

Albert Pujols, Cards .329-37-130 .314-34-127

Manny Ramirez, Indians .308-31-107 .309-33-112

Aubrey Huff, Rays .311-34-107 .301-29-101+

+ Through Friday

YOU DON'T SAY

"I'm happy here. The only thing that displeases me here is the number of losses that we have."

_ LOU PINIELLA, Rays manager

RAYS VS. RAYS

The Rays say this season's team is much improved over the 2003 model. Here's a comparison through 152 games:

2003 Stat 2004

60-92 W-L 65-87

5-34 Pos-GB 4-31

.267 Avg. .259

4.5 RPG+ 4.4

128 HR 139

4.93 ERA 4.80

97 E 115

13,070 Att.++ 14,927

+ runs per game; ++ average for games at Tropicana Field

_ MARC TOPKIN, Times staff writer

Britney Spears often visits the Extra Innings sports bar/club, owned by Rays scout Benny Latino.

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