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Lee, Rays find middle ground on contract

As they await a ruling on Wednesday's hearing with Josh Paul, the Devil Rays apparently settled their other remaining arbitration case as first baseman Travis Lee said they agreed to a one-year deal for $2.45-million.

"There's no option, no incentives, they just split it down the middle," Lee said from his Las Vegas home. "It's settled, so now I can just come down there to get ready."

Lee, who made $1.3-million last season while hitting .272 with 12 homers and 49 RBIs, had filed for $2.9-million; the Rays offered $2-million.

Though Lee may have preferred better terms, he said he is accustomed to getting one-year deals and was relieved to not have to sit through the hearingscheduled for Monday.

"I've been through that before and it kind of stinks," he said. "You're ripped on, you're praised, you're ripped on, you're praised, now "Go get 'em this year.' It makes no sense."

Paul's case marked only the second time in Rays history they went to an arbitration hearing. Arguments lasted nearly four hours, with senior vice president/general counsel John Higgins and consultant Tal Smith representing the team and agent Dick Moss making the case for Paul, who was also in the room at the Renaissance Vinoy Resort.

Paul, who made $450,000 last season as the Angels' third-string catcher, filed for $750,000. The Rays offered $475,000, not $450,000 as had been reported.

The three-arbitrator panel is expected to render a decision today. So far, teams have won three of the five cases.

JULIO IN THE HOUSE: Shortstop Julio Lugo went through a brief workout at the training complex and said he was happy, though somewhat surprised, to be there.

"I thought I was going to be traded, for sure," Lugo said. "I was hearing my name all the time. But nothing happened, and I'm glad that I'm back. Whatever they do, it's their decision. I have no say."

For most of the offseason, Lugo's name was mentioned in discussions with the Red Sox, Mets and Cubs. Though some players would be upset they were being shopped, Lugo said he took it as a compliment.

"I was flattered," he said. "There's people out there that want me; that's a good thing."

NEW FACES: The Rays' efforts to establish a scouting and player development presence in Venezuela will take a big step forward today with the expected hiring of Andres Reiner, the founder of the Astros' highly productive academy.

Under Reiner's guidance, the Astros have produced 17 major-leaguers including Bobby Abreu, Johan Santana, Freddy Garcia and Melvin Mora.

Reiner spent 17 years with the Astros and had been hired in December by former Reds general manager Dan O'Brien.

The Rays are also expected to soon announce the hiring of Dan Feinstein, who had been coordinator of baseball operations for the Dodgers under former general manager Paul DePodesta.

MISCELLANY: Pitchers and catchers are expected to check in at the training complex by today; the first workout under new manager Joe Maddon is Friday morning. The Rays today will announce a new initiative involving Pinellas and Hillsborough students.

- MARC TOPKIN, Times staff writer

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