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  1. Rays

Rays to sign top international prospect for $3.3 million

NEW YORK — As confident as a team can be in a 15-year-old, the Rays clearly are in SS Adrian Rondon, enough to invest a reported $3.3 million in one of the top prospects on the international market.

The deal won't be official until Monday, when Rondon turns 16, with an announcement expected at the team's academy in the Dominican Republic.

Baseball America ranked Rondon the No. 1 prospect for the international signing period that opened Wednesday, and had him third, both raving about his bat speed and control and smooth skills in the field.

Scouts told Baseball America that Rondon has similar skills and potential for a quick rise as Cubs SS Starlin Castro, who got to the majors by age 20. Another scout, quoted anonymously, said Rondon's ceiling could be higher, suggesting All-Star Hanley Ramirez as an upside comparison.

Baseball America and ESPN reported the agreement on the first day of the signing period, though the Rays did not confirm it. Astin Jacobo, who trained Rondon in the Dominican, told the Tampa Bay Times that he couldn't say anything.

In signing Rondon for around $3.3 million, the Rays will far exceed their allotted bonus pool (around $2 million) and be subject to a financial penalty and signing limits on the international market over the next two years.

The Rays did confirm the signing of Dominican OF Jesus Sanchez, who was ranked No. 27 by Baseball America, for a reported $400,000.

RECORD DAY: In working a scoreless eighth, RHP Joel Peralta tied Esteban Yan's franchise mark for appearances by a pitcher with 266, over 3 ½ seasons.

"It means a lot," Peralta said. "The consistency, being part of something special. I've been part of this team for a long time. That's something I'm proud of, something I feel great about."

STARRY-EYED: Manager Joe Maddon continues pushing LHP Jake McGee, whose 1.21 ERA leads all AL relievers, for the All-Star team and is eager to state his case to AL/Boston manager John Farrell if asked. LHP David Price is another candidate, either to be picked by Farrell or voted in by the players.

HELLICKSON UPDATE: Approaching the end of his allotted 30-day rehab assignment, RHP Jeremy Hellickson is scheduled to make his fifth start for Triple-A Durham tonight, and sixth overall, in his return from January elbow surgery. He is scheduled for six innings or 90 pitches.

Hellickson left his last start after three innings Friday after feeling "minor discomfort." If the Rays don't deem Hellickson ready to return by Monday, when his assignment is over, they could option him to the minors for more work.

NOT-SO-MINOR MATTERS: Four Durham Bulls were named to the International League team for the July 16 Triple-A All-Star Game: DH Wilson Betemit, RHP Merrill Kelly, OF Mikie Mahtook and LHP Mike Montgomery. Durham's Charlie Montoyo will manage against the PCL stars; Durham trainer Mike Sandoval also was selected. … RHP Angel Sanchez, designated for assignment Monday to make room for waiver claim RHP Cory Burns, was claimed by the White Sox.

MISCELLANY: Due to weather issues, the Rays were delayed several hours in leaving New York. … With wife Melanie due to deliver their first child, LHP Cesar Ramos planned to fly with the team to Detroit but leave for home no later than Saturday night. … The five-game winning streak is the Rays' longest since a seven-game run in September. … Per Sun Sports, Tuesday's game was the most watched since May 30 (at Boston) and fifth most of the season. … Maybe ESPN knows something? The Rays were featured nationally Monday, and will be on Friday and Sunday.