Report: Piniella not returning to Devil Rays in 2006

Lou Piniella's rocky tenure in Tampa Bay appears to be over.

Two sources speaking on condition of anonymity told The Tampa Tribune that Piniella will not return as the Devil Rays manager next season.

According to the Tribune, the Devil Rays will buy out the remaining year of Piniella's four-year deal. Piniella will receive $2.2 million of the $4.4 million he was to have received in 2006. The Rays will also pay $1.25 million in salary deferred from Piniella's first season in 2003.

Piniella, 62, will be free to take another managerial job next season, but has hinted he may take the season off, the Tribune reported.

When asked about his future by the Tribune, Piniella said only, "I can't talk about it."

Rumors of Piniella's departure began earlier this season, when the manager confronted the front office in June over the direction of the team. Piniella criticized the new owners of the last-place team for what he perceives as a lack of a commitment to do everything possible to win. The Devil Rays have the lowest payroll in the majors, just under $30 million when the season began.

"When I came here three years ago, we talked about a situation
where we wanted to win now and we were interested in winning now,"
Piniella told reporters in June. "And you know what? With a small payroll we
[improved] from 55 [victories] to 63 and then to 70. This was
supposed to be a breakout year. The problem is we've got a new
ownership group here that's changed the direction of where we're

The Tribune reported that both sides have been negotiating the details of a buyout since mid-June. Piniella's agent, Alan Nero, did not comment on the deal in a voice message he left Wednesday for the Tribune.

"I just wish everybody would leave it alone," Nero told the Tribune. "Just honor his privacy a bit and let him finish the season up the way he wants. ... Any decisions that have been made will be made public at the appropriate time."

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.