Lou Piniella's agent met with the Tampa Bay Devil Rays yesterday in St. Petersburg, Fla., to discuss the frustrated manager's concerns about the direction of the last-place franchise.

Piniella criticized the team's new owners last weekend for not doing enough to make the Devil Rays more competitive this year, going as far as to say he would no longer take responsibility for the wretched performance of the club with baseball's lowest payroll.

The Devil Rays have won three of four games since Piniella's outburst last Sunday, but they still own one of the worst records in the majors at 23-43.

General Manager Chuck LaMar confirmed meeting with agent Alan Nero to talk about Piniella's concerns, but did not provide specifics about the discussion.

"As we have on a number of occasions over the last year, we discussed Lou, the organization and our direction for the future," LaMar said in a statement. "It was, as it has been in the past, a constructive session with Alan. I would anticipate we will continue to share this open dialogue in the future."

Nero, who three years ago helped Piniella leave Seattle for Tampa Bay with one season left on his contract, also thought the two-hour session went well.

LaMar said earlier in the week that there had not been any discussion about the possibility of buying out Piniella's contract, which runs through 2006.

The manager is earning $3.5 million this season and will make $4.5 million next year. The Devil Rays also owe him more than $1 million deferred from 2003, Piniella's first season with his home-town team.

Asked if yesterday's meeting was aimed at trying to get Piniella out of Tampa Bay, Nero said: "Absolutely not."

* BROWN AILING: Yankees P Kevin Brown may not make his next scheduled start because of the back spasms that forced him out of Wednesday night's game against Pittsburgh.

"It's going to be doubtful for him for his next start," Manager Joe Torre said last night. "Today he was really locked up, and he's hurting. But it's something we feel will be fine because it's muscular. Tomorrow may be a different story, but today he wasn't very comfortable."

* TSUNAMI RELIEF: President Clinton received a mixture of boos and cheers at Yankee Stadium as he was given a $1 million check for tsunami relief.

Clinton was accompanied to the area behind home plate by Yankees P Mike Mussina and was handed an oversized check by Yankees GM Steve Swindal, a son-in-law of owner George Steinbrenner. The money, to be split between the Bush-Clinton Fund and the Clinton Foundation Tsunami Recovery Project, came from receipts from New York's April 3 season opener against Boston.

President Bush, the former Texas Rangers owner, asked his father, former President George H.W. Bush, and Clinton to lead fund-raising for tsunami relief efforts.

Clinton, who was not made available for comment, waved to fans and gave a thumbs-up. He spent part of the game sitting with Steinbrenner.

* MARLINS BALLPARK: With their hopes for a new retractable-roof stadium still in limbo, the Florida Marlins are continuing to "review all options," team president David Samson said.

Samson did not say what any alternative options may include, nor would he say if the team's hope of being in a new facility in time for the 2008 season was still feasible. The Marlins want a 38,000-seat ballpark to be built adjacent to the Orange Bowl in downtown Miami.

Yet the plan has been stalled by a gap in funding. The team, the city and Miami-Dade County have pledged $390 million toward the construction of a new stadium; that leaves a gap of up to $45 million.

* MEMORABLE HOMERS: 3B Aaron Boone's game-winning homer for Cleveland on Wednesday was the seventh of his career and his first since his series-winning shot in the 2003 ALCS for the Yankees.

"It's a fun deal," said Boone, who received the ritualistic pounding from his teammates when he reached the plate. "I remember all of them."

-- From News Services

Manager Lou Piniella criticized Devil Rays owners for not doing enough to improve the team.