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Rays nearly ready to bid on veteran targets

Devil Rays officials spent a good part of Monday talking with agents representing a half-dozen free agents they have interest in.

Over the next few days, they expect to get down to business.

With limited money left in their major-league-low $32-million budget, the Rays are trying to fill two or three holes with low-priced veterans. Because they have some flexibility in how they use Aubrey Huff and Jorge Cantu, they are exploring various possibilities and combinations.

Among the most likely options:

Third base _ Tony Batista would be the most productive, but Alex Gonzalez may prove to be more cost-efficient and versatile. Another option is to play Huff at third.

Second base _ Mark Grudzielanek appears to be their first choice, but if he goes elsewhere they will consider Alex Cora and maybe Miguel Cairo. Another option is to use Cantu at second.

Leftfield/DH _ Danny Bautista looks to be their leading man, though they still might consider taking a chance on Juan Gonzalez. Eric Munson could be another option. Huff could be used in either role as well.

_ MARC TOPKIN, Times staff writer