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Published Jul. 31, 2007

The Devil Rays will welcome veteran C Josh Paul back today from a lengthy stay on the disabled list and plan to keep him busy.

Manager Joe Maddon said he plans to play Paul, who has been out since mid May, somewhat regularly, possibly even on a split-time basis with struggling starter Dioner Navarro.

"It's possible we could go back and forth," Maddon said. "I want to get JP more involved when he comes back. I thought he was playing at a very high level, and I do want to get him out there more often."

Maddon said Paul, though a backup for most of his career, can be a big help, especially in his game-calling and handling of pitchers.

"I think we missed him more than we realized based on a lot of the little things he's able to do," Maddon said.

Though it's not particularly good, the staff ERA is lower when Paul is behind the plate (5.28) than Navarro (5.93) and Raul Casanova (7.38). Plus the Rays are 7-6 when Paul starts, 26-44 with Navarro and 3-12 with Casanova.

Maddon also said he has seen better all-around play from Navarro, particularly in blocking pitches and throwing, and that he is swinging better, especially from the left side, despite his .178 average that is among the worst of all major-league regulars. Paul, who went 2-for-4 with a run scored in his final rehab game with Double-A Montgomery on Thursday night, is hitting .245 with five RBIs in 15 games with the Rays.

The Rays have to reinstate Paul, who had a strained left elbow, to the 40-man roster (because he was on the 60-day disabled list), which means Casanova not only has to go, but likely will be designated for assignment. (The Rays would have 10 days to trade, release or pass him through waivers to get him to minors).

With new father Casey Fossum rejoining the bullpen today, they also are expected to drop a pitcher (RHP Jae Kuk Ryu?) and add a position player to their short-handed bench. Candidates include INFs Joel Guzman (.247, 13 homers, 48 RBIs at Triple-A Durham) and Ben Zobrist (.273, seven homers, 22 RBIs) and nonroster OFs Chris Richard (.283, 13 homers, 51 RBIs) and Justin Ruggiano (.287, 13 homers, 54 RBIs).

TRADE WINDS: The Lou Piniella-managed Cubs are the latest team interested in acquiring INF Ty Wigginton, who seems likely to be dealt before Tuesday's 4 p.m. deadline for nonwaiver deals. Others are the Dodgers, Twins, Yankees and Red Sox, who get a firsthand look this weekend.

TALK IT OUT: After reviewing the fundamentally fouled-up first-inning fly ball that cost the Rays two runs Wednesday, Maddon said it was such a basic mistake that it can be addressed more by talking it out than an extra workout, and he planned to speak with both LF Carl Crawford and SS Brendan Harris.

"That's something conversationally I think we can take care of," he said. "That's just 101 stuff."

MISCELLANY: The Rays are 4-19 in their past 23 road games. ... Ex-Ray Rob Bell, resurrecting his career with Baltimore, got the win with 11/3 innings of work. ... RHP Jason Hammel will be on about a 90-pitch limit tonight, which could be tricky against the overly patient Sox. ... Former Sox great Rico Petrocelli will sign autographs before all three games at the Ted Williams museum.

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