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TV to air both more, more prominent games

The Devil Rays hope to put a more exciting team on the field this season.

And they are trying to get more people to watch it.

The Rays announced plans Tuesday to televise 142 of their 162 games, two more than in any previous season.

There will be 67 games available over-the-air on WXPX-Ch. 66 (as well as through DirecTV) and 75 cable-only games on Fox Sports Net Florida. The TV schedule includes the April 3 season opener, the April 10 home opener and all games against their highest-profile opponents, the Yankees, Red Sox and Braves.

"We wanted to put the best games on TV and the ones fans want to watch the most," team president Matt Silverman said. "And we don't have consecutive dates without a game being shown."

The announcing team of Joe Magrane and Dewayne Staats will return, as will pregame host/ingame reporter Todd Kalas. FSN will introduce a new nine-episode show called Inside the Devil Rays, which will include player profiles and behind-the-scenes access.

JUDGE AND JURY: Barring a late-night/early morning settlement, the Rays are headed for an arbitration hearing today with new backup catcher Josh Paul.

The Rays went to only one hearing in eight seasons with Chuck LaMar as general manager, but new executive vice president Andrew Friedman said it may become a more common practice.

"We think that we're going to become intimately involved with the arbitration process given the nature of how young our roster is," Friedman said. "The intent of the hearing is to solve differences that can't be resolved through negotiations. It's not ideal for the team or the player, but sometimes it's necessary."

In a hearing, team officials and the player's agent argue their case, at times contentiously, for several hours, and the three-arbitrator panel picks either the salary offered by the team or requested by the player. A decision is usually announced the next day.

Paul, who made $450,000 last season when he had 37 at-bats for the Angels, then was designated for assignment, filed for $750,000. The Rays, who will be represented by senior vice president/general counsel John Higgins and consultant Tal Smith, offered $450,000.

"It's hard in this setting to truly determine a winner, but it allows us to solve the impasse in the negotiations in a timely manner so we can focus on what's most important, which is getting ready for the season," Friedman said.

MISCELLANY: Reliever Jesus Colome joined the early arrivals at the training complex in advance of Friday's opening of spring training. The team winter caravan concludes today with the St. Petersburg/Clearwater chambers of commerce luncheon at Tropicana Field and afternoon visits to All Children's Hospital and the Northeast Little League. A preliminary schedule for Saturday's Fan Fest has Scott Kazmir and Doug Waechter signing autographs from noon-1 p.m.; Rocco Baldelli, B.J. Upton, Toby Hall and Aubrey Huff from 2-3; and Jorge Cantu from 3-4.

- MARC TOPKIN, Times staff writer

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