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Rays build hopes for 2005
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10/03/2004 6:00 PM ET
Rays build hopes for 2005
Expectations to be raised once again for young club
tickets for any Major League Baseball game
Aubrey Huff believes the Devil Rays will continue to get better with more experience. (Steve Nesius/AP)
DETROIT -- Mission accomplished, full speed ahead.

Following the Devil Rays' victory on Sunday, Tampa Bay managing general partner Vince Naimoli said he and his staff are pleased with the progress made by the team this season.

"I believe that we either met or exceeded everyone's expectations for this year,'' Naimoli said. "And our expectations and goals for next year are significantly more lofty. Everyone is committed to higher goals next year.''

Aubrey Huff, who finished with a team-leading 29 home runs and 104 RBIs, said he saw marked improvement and reason for optimism.

"All of the young guys, guys like [Carl] Crawford and [Rocco] Baldelli, got better this year and are going to get even better,'' Huff said. "Eventually, we are going to win with the young guys while adding in other key players.''

Manager Lou Piniella had predicted before the season that his inexperienced, but talented club would not finish in fifth place for a seventh straight year. Despite some early and late-season struggles, the Rays managed to back him up.

"Our guys have gotten after it all year,'' Piniella said. "We showed progress.''

Piniella will not attempt to play Nostradamus this offseason. He's simply looking forward to lot of fishing and relaxation time.

"I'm out of the prediction business,'' Piniella said. "I'm going to watch what I say from now on -- not that it was bad. I was just trying to be positive for our fans in Tampa Bay.''

Piniella said the Rays and their fans should celebrate a good 2004 season, and keep in mind that things can get even better.

"It's been a tough road,'' Piniella said. "Now, let's improve our team over the winter and look forward to Spring Training.''

Paul C. Smith is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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