The Tampa Bay Devil Rays didn’t enjoy much success under manager Lou Piniella, but there’s little doubt he’s leaving the organization in better shape than when he arrived three years ago.
Piniella will complete his tenure as Devil Rays manager when his team concludes the regular season against the Baltimore Orioles at Tropicana Field.
Piniella announced earlier this week that he will not return next season, a decision that had long been expected after he questioned ownership’s commitment to winning.
“We’ve got a new ownership group taking over. They need to bring in their own manager that they can grow with,” Piniella said Friday. “At the same time, it’ll give me time to go home and relax, fish and play some golf. I’m tired. I need some time off. It’ll give me a chance to do those things, and at the same time to evaluate and look at situations that might arise about my future.”
Piniella had one season remaining on a $13 million, four-year contract he signed in October 2002 but, according to the terms of a buyout, will be free to pursue other jobs after Sunday’s finale.
He stressed he didn’t walk away because he has his sights on moving to another team, and reiterated that he eventually may decide to sit out next year to travel and spend time with family.
“There’s nothing on the horizon,” Piniella said. “There’s nothing to speculate about.”
Piniella, named the Devil Rays’ third manager on Oct. 28, 2002, led the team to improvement in each of his first two seasons, going from 55 wins in 2002 to 63 in 2003 and a club-record 70 wins in 2004. Regardless of Sunday’s outcome, Tampa Bay will fall short of last season’s win total.
“We go straight to a winning season next season,” Tampa Bay’s Jorge Cantu said. “So we’ve got some winning to do. We need to take what we learned this season to spring training and take that to the season.
“If Lou is not going to be here with us, I think he’s going to be really proud of us next year.”
The Orioles will complete their eighth straight losing season Sunday despite spending much of the first half in first place.
Baltimore was helped by a mental error by Tampa Bay’s Damon Hollins in a 4-3 victory Saturday.
Hollins thought his running catch ended a Baltimore threat in the seventh inning and threw a live ball into the stands with two outs. David Newhan tagged up from second on the play and was awarded home to make it 4-2.
“I thought it was three outs … my mistake,” Hollins said. “I threw it up and took four or five steps in and looked up and saw all the infielders were looking at me like I was a ghost. That’s when I knew that I had did something wrong.”