Tampa Bay Rays
Rays' Friedman says Damon, Kotchman 'in play'
ST. PETERSBURG - Tampa Bay Rays executive vice president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman said free agents Casey Kotchman and Johnny Damon are "very much in the discussion" when it comes to the 2012 season. Whether one or both return depends on a number of factors, which include offers each might receive from other teams and the chances of the Rays upgrading offensively at one or both positions. "We won 91 games last year with both those guys playing a key role," Friedman said Thursday during a pre-winter meetings news conference at Tropicana Field. "They're both very much in play in a combination or as a one depending how everything else evolves both for them and for us." Kotchman hit a career-high .306 but hit only 10 home runs. Damon provided one of the steadier bats in the Rays' lineup, but hit only 16 homers.The Rays would like to see more power from each spot in the batting order. Friedman said he is willing to bring in a designated hitter who can also contribute in the field. As for first base, Friedman does not want to sacrifice too much defense. The Rays have had a steady diet of top fielding first basemen from Travis Lee to Carlos Peña to Kotchman, and he would like that to continue. Peña could enter the picture if he is willing to sign for less than the $10 million the Cubs gave him for the 2011 season. "We want to improve our offense without taking away from our defense," Friedman said. "It's more of a net gain. While we would like to improve our offense and maintain our high level of defense, if to improve our offense we have to significantly decrease our team on the defensive side of things, we're not going to do that." Maddon's 'Thanksmas' fundraiser returns Rays manager Joe Maddon will host "Thanksmas" for the sixth consecutive year, Dec. 12-14, at Salvation Army Shelters in St. Petersburg, Tampa and Bradenton. Maddon will hold a fundraiser from 5 p.m. until closing Dec. 9 at 717 South in Tampa. He will serve his traditional Italian/Polish holiday dinner Dec.12 at the Sallie House in St. Petersburg, Dec. 13 at the Salvation Armys in Bradenton (noon) and St. Petersburg (4:30 p.m.), and Dec. 14 at the Salvation Army in Tampa (5 p.m.).