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Off the field happenings

Besides Rocco 2005 being called off, today could be the beginning of the end with Lou running the ship.

At the request of Lou Piniella, the agent for the Devil Rays manager will meet Thursday with managing general partner Vince Naimoli and GM Chuck LaMar. The subject of course will be Piniella's future with the team, and it could be the first of several meetings.

The plans for the next few seasons, particularly how much money is expected to be added to the payroll, will have everything to do with whether or not Piniella wants to stay in Tampa Bay. He reportedly would be open to a buyout if no significant payroll increases are promised.

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Also Monday Rays LaMar had some interesting comments on the issue, including the first-time revelation that new part-owner Stuart Sternberg has been involved in making team decisions, and that he's not sure whether or not Piniella and Sternberg will be able to co-exist.

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Many reports, locally and nationally, have speculated that Sunday's comments could have been Piniella asking to be let go -- assuming nothing changes from a payroll standpoint.
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For the first time, it was suggested that Sternberg is running things a little bit more than people believe. LaMar in fact stated that Naimoli and Sternberg basically share the duties of decision making.
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LaMar, who Monday said he feels Piniella is the best manager in the game, said the direction for 2006 has yet to be determined, and will be in the next few months. "Obviously there are some questions there," LaMar said. "Can we call up the young players? The payroll for future years. Can I get enough of those pieces to get the job done? Those are going to have to be addressed."