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Pinella bought out
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Old 23 Sep 2005, 12:51 PM   #1 (permalink)
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Default Pinella bought out

Report: Piniella to get buyout
09/22/2005 12:52 AM ET
By Bill Chastain /

ST. PETERSBURG -- Lou Piniella won't be back as the Devil Rays' manager in 2006, according to a Tampa Tribune story that cited two anonymous baseball sources.

Piniella's contract called for him to receive $4.4 million in 2006, the final year of his deal, and, according to the story, he will take a $2.2 million buyout in addition to being paid $1.25 million in salary deferred from 2003.

In a statement, the Devil Rays said, "In echoing the sentiments expressed by our manager Lou Piniella, we will have no comment on this matter until a more appropriate time, if that should present itself."

Piniella, 62, delayed his normal pregame remarks with reporters, usually done hours before the game, until just 30 minutes before Wednesday night's Rays-Red Sox contest. When asked about the report, Piniella chose not to address it.

"My main concern is my team and players," Piniella said. "I don't want any distractions. So when the time is appropriate, we'll comment on the situation."

In accordance with the buyout, Piniella will have no ties to the Rays, so he will be available to manage elsewhere, or perhaps head to the broadcast booth.

After Wednesday night's 7-4 win over the Red Sox, Piniella said he has not talked to his team about his situation.

"I had to answer some questions today because it was reported, but that's all," Piniella said. "I haven't talked to anybody. My situation can wait until the appropriate time. ... Right now, what I'm interested in is finishing up our season as strong as we can. We've got important games with the Anaheim Angels and the Cleveland Indians, and my focus is on that. And I don't want to disturb any situation. These players have played hard. They're having fun. And I don't want my situation to be a disturbance or a nuisance, so I'll defer that to later on."

Piniella came to the Rays in 2003 after the Mariners traded his negotiating rights for outfielder Randy Winn. The Rays then signed Piniella to a four-year, $13 million contract.

Earlier in the season, Piniella expressed displeasure with the organization during a Rays road trip to Pittsburgh. In the aftermath of his comments, his agent, Alan Nero, began to negotiate with the Rays to get Piniella out of his contract.

Nero and Rays general manager Chuck LaMar met June 16 to begin the dialogue for Piniella to leave, and they met again in August, where, according to the Tribune, the final details of the buyout were completed.

All of the Rays' coaches on staff remain under contract through the 2006 season. Third-base coach Tom Foley, first-base coach Billy Hatcher and bench coach John McLaren would all be early candidates for taking over the managerial reins in 2006.

Under Piniella, the Rays won a club-record 70 games in 2004. Speculation has suggested Piniella could take over any number of jobs, including the Yankees, Marlins and Orioles, or he could take a season off before managing again.

According to the Tribune, Vince Naimoli, the Rays' managing general partner, and Stuart Sternberg, the New York-based investor who, along with five of his Wall Street partners, paid $65 million for 49 percent of the franchise in May 2004, are believed to have had input in the agreement to buy out Piniella.

Naimoli still controls the team and Sternberg is scheduled to take control after the 2006 season.

"I've enjoyed playing for him," said Rays outfielder Rocco Baldelli, who has been on the disabled list all season. "I don't know if the story is about the money or what's going on, but I hope that I haven't played my last game for him."

Rays left fielder Carl Crawford said Piniella went "three years, as hard as he could."

"We played hard for him, I know I played hard for him for three years," Crawford said. "You know, you just hate to see it end the way it did. Because it ended in such an ugly way. He wants to go another route and we all wish him well. ... He hasn't said anything [to the team], yet. But I guess we'll be expecting to hear it in a few days. I don't know. Maybe he'll wait until the end of the year."

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.
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