Manager won't attend meeting with Rays officials

Updated: June 15, 2005, 11:03 PM ET
Associated Press

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.

Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press