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Tampa's Timmons joins Rays

Tampa native Ozzie Timmons finished his major-league playing career with the Devil Rays and will start his minor-league coaching career with them, joining the staff at Class A Hudson Valley.

Timmons was one of five former major-league players hired as the Rays completed an extensive makeover of their minor-league coaching staff. Also hired were Jim Morrison, manager at Class A Columbus (Ga.); Ben Oglivie, coach at Class A Vero Beach; Neil Allen, pitching coach at Double-A Montgomery; and Gary Gaetti, coach at Triple-A Durham.

Morrison, 54, was a standout at King High.

Timmons, 36, finished the 2000 season with the Rays, singling in the season finale to spark a winning 10th-inning rally in his last at-bat, then spent the next five seasons bouncing among Japan, Mexico, Triple A and the independent leagues, deciding to retire after spending last season with Atlantic City (N.J.) of the Atlantic League.

"When the Devil Rays called it was the perfect thing," Timmons said. "I just got married, I still live in Tampa, this is a good way to start off. I'm so excited, I'm ready to go right now."

The Rays made two other new hires, adding Billy Gardner Jr. as manager at Montgomery and Bill Moloney as pitching coach at Columbus, and shuffled several other positions.

The new staffs, listed by manager, pitching coach and coach:

Durham: Charlie Montoyo, Xavier Hernandez, Gaetti; Montgomery: Gardner, Allen, Hector Torres; Vero Beach: Joe Szekely, R.C. Lichtenstein, Oglivie; Columbus: Morrison, Moloney, Brady Williams; Hudson Valley: Matt Quatraro, Rafael Montalvo, Timmons; Princeton: Jamie Nelson, Marty DeMerritt, Rafael Deleon.

SALAS HONORED: Juan Salas was named minor-league reliever of the year for going 4-1 with 17 saves and an 0.71 ERA in 50 games between Montgomery and Durham.

IWAMURA UPDATE: Japanese infielder Akinori Iwamura is scheduled to come to the United States next week and visit the Tampa Bay area as negotiations continue. After bidding about $4.5-million for his rights, the Rays have until Dec. 15 to sign him.

Around the majors

JAYS RIP CATCHER: Blue Jays general manager J.P. Ricciardi claimed catcher Rod Barajas backed out of a deal after signing a terms sheet. Barajas was represented by Gregg Clifton and Terry Bross, then switched to Dan Lozano. Ricciardi said Lozano wanted to reopen negotiations, but the Jays wanted no part of it. Lozano denied that.

BUSY BOSOX: GM Theo Epstein said the Red Sox might complete a deal with an unnamed free agent before the winter meetings start Monday. Boston is known to be pursuing former Dodgers outfielder J.D. Drew, whose agent, Scott Boras, said he expects to cap negotiations this week.

PUJOLS MIFFED: Cardinals first baseman Albert Pujols is upset he lost to Philadelphia's Ryan Howard for the NL MVP award. "I see it this way: Someone who doesn't take his team to the playoffs doesn't deserve to win the MVP," he said.

BREWERS: Craig Counsell agreed to a $6-million, two-year deal.

PHILLIES: The team backed out of a multiyear deal with former Rays reliever Joe Borowski because of concerns over his shoulder, reported.

Information from Times wires was used in this report.

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