Friedman: Blalock's contract situation not a factor in call-up
Rays executive VP Andrew Friedman said the decision to call up Hank Blalock gives them more positional flexibility, and that with Willy Aybar hitting well against lefties, a left-handed bat "fit us better."
Friedman said Blalock's contract situation - and potential opt-out clause - didn't have much to do with the move, saying they had talked in spring training about re-evaluating at this point of the season. He said that Dan Johnson was also considered, so it wasn't all about Blalock.
Blalock will be here around gametime and is expected to platoon with Aybar at DH. Manager Joe Maddon said they got good reports from Triple-A on Blalock's play defensively at third, and he can also fill in at first.
Friedman said he met with Burrell this morning to deliver the news he was designated for assigmment, and the veteran "was a real pro."
Burrell, who was signed to a two-year, $16 million contract before last season, was thought to be one of the Rays answers against left-handed pitching. But he struggled from the start, hitting .221 with 14 HR and 64 RBI last season, and, this year, is .202 (including just .053 against lefties).
Maddon again praised Burrell for his work ethic and wished him well, said he handled everything with class. He couldn't pin-point what went wrong, pointing out maybe the transition from the National League to American League, or from position player to DH. But as much as the Rays talked about what Blalock could bring, one thing was clear:
"If Pat was hitting to his normal previous levels, there wouldn't have been a move (today)," Maddon said.
Blalock, 29, a two-time All-Star, had no big-league offers when he signed with the Rays during spring training, and agreed — at first reluctantly — to go to Durham. Blalock accepted an assignment to Triple-A Durham, where he hit .349 with 24 RBIs, four home runs and a .405 on-base percentage. Agent Scott Boras told Times baseball writer Marc Topkin Tuesday that Blalock would activate the out clause in his Triple-A contract within the next week, forcing the Rays to either promote him or allow him to become a free agent. But Friedman said that wasn't much of a factor.