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RAYS SETTLE FOR SPOILER ROLE

If the Rays aren't going back to the playoffs, they say there can be some satisfaction in making it tougher for the teams battling to get there.

Especially if that team is the Red Sox.

"Nothing better than that," closer J.P. Howell said. "That would feel very good. That would turn something, you don't want to say ugly, but a little disappointing into kind of disappointing.

"There would be something in there for us. A little piece of pie for us - something sweet."

"They'd pretty high (on the list) I would imagine," starter James Shields said. "They're in our division, and we don't really want anybody else in our division besides us to go to the playoffs."

Until the Rays' recent collapse, the three-game series that starts tonight at Fenway Park was considered a major showdown for the final AL playoff spot. Now it's just a question if the Rays - who are 9-1/2 back and more concerned with snapping an eight-game losing streak - can sabotage Boston's two-game lead over Texas.

"Very, very disappointing," Howell said. "I wish we could turn back the clock about 10 days and start all over, but that's life. I wish we could turn it back to April, too, but we can't. I think we learned a lesson, that we don't want to come from behind any more. We'll start out early next year."

PENA SURGERY: 1B Carlos Pena is expected to be fully recovered by the end of November after having pins inserted in his two broken fingers Thursday in a two-hour surgery by Dr. Doug Carlan in St. Petersburg.

Pena's left index and middle fingers were broken by a CC Sabathia pitch Monday. The Rays said the surgery went well, that the pins will be removed in 4-6 weeks and Pena will make a full recovery in 8-10 weeks.

WELL INSTRUCTED: Top 2008 draft pick SS Tim Beckham heads a list of 45 players announced to participate in the monthlong instructional league program starting Sunday in Port Charlotte.

Promising pitching prospects Alexander Colome, Matt Moore, Kyle Lobstein and David Newmann are among the others. The team will play 14 games, starting with the Sept. 21 opener at Tropicana Field and running through Oct. 9. For the schedule and roster, see blogs.tampabay.com/rays.

MISCELLANY: Class A Charlotte faced Fort Myers (Twins) in the deciding game of the Florida State League first-round playoffs on Thursday. ... Triple-A Durham hosted Louisville (Reds) in Game 2 of the International League first round.

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Rookie hazing of the day

David Price has the misfortune of getting caught by the camera in this shiny pink number (and foam rubber, um, curves), blond wig and white tights as the Rays had their six rookies wear dresses leaving New York. The others: Reid Brignac, Wade Davis, Jeff Niemann, Fernando Perez and Dale Thayer.

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