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Manager won't attend meeting with Rays officials

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- Alan Nero, the agent for Tampa Bay
manager Lou Piniella, is scheduled to meet with team management
Thursday.

Piniella criticized the club's new ownership last Sunday for not
doing enough to field a competitive team this season. The Devil
Rays have the lowest payroll in baseball, just under $30 million on
opening day, and have one of the worst records in the majors at
23-43.

Asked if could elaborate on the purpose of the meeting, Piniella
said: "No, I can't. There's nothing to talk about. I haven't
talked to Alan at all or anything else. He's going in and we'll see
what comes out."

The manager said he will spend Thursday's off day with his
family and will not be at the meeting.

A group headed by New York investor Stuart Sternberg purchased
48 percent of the Devil Rays last year, and Piniella has expressed
concern that the new owners seem to care more about the future than
trying to win now.

While managing general partner Vince Naimoli owns 15 percent and
remains in charge of daily operations, general manager Chuck LaMar
has said Naimoli and Sternberg make some long-term decisions
jointly.

Piniella is in his third season with the Devil Rays, who
improved from 55 to 63 victories in their first year under the
former Yankees, Reds and Mariners manager. They followed with a
franchise-record 70 wins last year.

The payroll has increased each of the past two offseasons, but
still is nowhere close to where Piniella feels it needs to be for
Tampa Bay to be competitive.

Piniella's contract runs through 2006. He is earning $3.5
million this season and is due to make $4.5 million next year.