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Rays Beat: Anxious moments for arbitration-eligible players

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Published:   |   Updated: November 30, 2013 at 05:34 PM

ST. PETERSBURG — Monday is the deadline for teams to tender contracts to their arbitration-eligible players, making for some anxious waiting for those who are on the bubble of being tendered a contract for 2014 or made a free agent.

“I know I’ve got that date circled on the calendar,” outfielder Sam Fuld said this week.

Fuld is one of nine arbitration-eligible Rays, joining pitchers David Price, Jeremy Hellickson, Jake McGee, Cesar Ramos and Wesley Wright, outfielder Matt Joyce, infield/outfielder Sean Rodriguez and catcher Jose Lobaton.

“I went through it for the first time last year, and once the tender deadline passes and your contract is picked up, it’s a huge sense of relief,” Fuld said.

Price, Hellickson, McGee, Joyce and Lobaton are no-brainers. Rodriguez also would appear to be on that list.

Fuld could have become expandable when the Rays re-signed outfielder David DeJesus. That outfielder Brandon Guyer is out of options could factor into that decision as well.

The addition of Wright in August could make Ramos (both left-handers) expandable or vice versa.

It’s likely the Rays will tender contracts to all nine players (the deadline to actually offer contracts is in January), and it’s possible one or more can be moved in a trade. Price, of course, is the likely candidate.

Ramos, arbitration-eligible for the first time, sees this as an exciting time in his career. For one, he said it’s an accomplishment to pitch in the big leagues long enough to be arbitration-eligible.

“I’m interested to see how it plays out,” Ramos said this week. “I’m not worried. I’m not losing any sleep. I’m confident in my abilities.”

Ramos feels he will return to the big leagues in 2014, either with the Rays or another team, because he thinks he’s proven his worth by being able to pitch in short and long relief.

“And I’m left-handed,” he said.

Fuld, who has been on a 40-man roster since 2007, is a bit more anxious. He knows he is a bench player for the Rays, and he knows bench players can be replaced.

“You never know what’s going to happen,” Fuld said. “But I’m used to it. That’s the life of a baseball player. Unless you have a (multiyear) contract there’s never any certainty.”

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The Rays are expected to announce they’ve re-signed right-hander Juan Carlos Oviedo early next week.

Oviedo, who spent the 2013 season rehabbing from Tommy John surgery on his right elbow, saved 92 games over three seasons with the Marlins when he was known as Leo Nunez.

The Rays signed Oviedo to a one-year deal before last season that included a $2 million option for 2014. The idea was Oviedo would return to the mound in September and replace Fernando Rodney as the closer this season. That Oviedo did not pitch for the Rays in 2013 made picking up his option a risky venture. Bringing him back at a lower salary makes more sense.

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Manager Joe Maddon’s annual Thanksmas returns in December for the eighth consecutive year, this time making stops at the Sallie House in St. Petersburg (Dec. 16), the Bradenton Salvation Army and St. Petersburg Salvation Army (Dec. 17), the Homeless Emergency Project in Clearwater and the Tampa Salvation Army (Dec. 18).

Maddon, with the help of volunteers in the Rays organization, has distributed nearly 6,000 traditional Italian/Polish holiday meals as well as clothes and shoes to those in need the past seven years.

Last season, Maddon presented checks of $7,500 to Salvation Army centers in St. Petersburg, Tampa and Clearwater and the Sallie House.

A fundraiser will be held from 5 p.m. until closing on Dec. 13 at 717 South in Tampa (717 S Howard Ave.). Maddon, his coaches and a number of Rays players will be guest servers.

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Right-hander Brandon Gomes, McGee and Joyce are honorary chairmen of the Pinellas County Education Foundation’s Ties and Tennis Shoes Gala scheduled for Friday at Tropicana Field. For tickets go to pinellaseducation.org. ... The Rays are expected to finalize the two-year deal with catcher Jose Molina early this week. ... Pitchers and catchers report to spring training Feb. 14 with the first workout Feb. 15 at Charlotte Sports Park. Position players report Feb. 19 with the first full-squad workout Feb. 20.

rmooney@tampatrib.com

(813) 259-7227

Twitter: @RMooneyTBO

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