The Rays are continuing to add depth to their roster, agreeing to sign veteran INF Wilson Betemit to a minor-league deal.
Betemit, 32, was limited to six games with the Orioles last season due to a knee injury. In 2012, he hit .261 with a .322 on-base and .422 slugging percentage in 102 games for the Orioles.
He has also played for the Braves, Doodgers, Yankees, White Sox, Royals and Tigers during a career that has spanned parts of 11 seasons.
CBS Sports' Jon Heyman first reported the agreement.
Rays pitchers and catchers report to Port Charlotte on Feb. 14 with their first workout on Feb. 15.
Rays director of team trave/clubhouse operations Chris Westmoreland and home clubhouse manager Jose Fernandez talk about the process of loading the equipment truck for the short trip south to Port Charlotte.Full Story
MARC TOPKIN / TAMPA BAY TIMES
Members of the Rays clubhouse staff load the equipment truck Thursday at the Trop.
The first official workout is still more than two weeks away, but the Rays are getting ready for spring training.
Thursday, the clubhouse staff showed it by loading the first truck that will make the trek south - albeit only about 90 minutes - from Tropicana Field to the Charlotte Sports Park in Port Charlotte.
"Vacation's definitely over,'' said Chris Westmoreland, director of team travel and clubhouse operations.
LHP Pedro Figueroa's stay with the Rays was brief.
Claimed on waivers by the Rays from Oakland on Jan. 7, Figueroa was claimed Wednesday by the Rangers after being put back on waivers by the Rays, who designated him for assignment last week.
The Rays needed the roster spot for the signing of free-agent RHP Grant Balfour. Even after trading LHP Alex Torres to San Diego and then taking Figueroa off the roster, the Rays feel comfortable with lefty relievers Jake McGee and Cesar Ramos in the majors, and Jeff Beliveau and C.J. Riefenhauser in the minors.
UPDATE, 7:05: Here is a quote from Rays president Matt Silverman explaining the new format:
"Fan Fest is a great way for the Rays to reconnect with our fans and celebrate the beginning of the baseball season. Each year we look to add greater interactions between our players and fans, and this year we will be high-fiving kids as they run the bases, participating in coaches clinics, taking photos with fans, and even serving ice cream, all of which are free. The paid autograph signings benefit charity and a are minor component to the event. We are selling certain players' autographs in advance to ensure that fans can receive them without having to endure a prolonged wait.''
DEVELOPING: The price of fame has gone up. …Full Story
The departure of manager Billy Gardner Jr. from Double-A Montgomery (for Washington's Triple-A job) resulted in an extensive shuffle of the Rays minor-league staff, as there will be new managers at four of the seven affiliates (including three of the four full-season teams).
The new hire is Tim Parenton, who will take at short-season Class A Hudson Valley. Parenton does not have any previous pro coaching experience. He most recently was an assistant coach at the University of North Florida, having previously coached at Old Dominion, Mississippi State, Samford, Florida and Jesuit (La.) High School.
Also, the Rays hired Chad Mottola, who was Toronto's big-league hitting coach last year, as a hitting coordinator to replace Matt Quartraro, who got a big-league job with the Indians, and promoted Kyle Snyder to be a third pitching coordinator, joining Dick Bosman and Dewey Robinson.
Here is a listing of the complete staff (new hires in bold italics and new assignments in italics): …Full Story
A couple of quick mid-day notes:
Word on the Rays minor-league assignments is coming out today.
With Billy Gardner Jr. leaving AA Montgomery (for Washington's Triple-A gig), there are a series of changes. Brady Williams moves up from Charlotte to manage Montgomery, Jared Sandberg from Bowling Green to Charlotte and Michael Johns from Hudson Valley to Bowling Green. The new hire is Tim Parenton, who will manage Hudson Valley. The Triple-A staff led by Charlie Montoyo returns intact.
As previously reported, Chad Mottola was hired as a hitting coordinator, replacing Matt Quatraro, who went to the Indians.
Also, Rich Hollenberg was officially named to replace Barry LeBrock as the pre- and post-game TV host for road games.
WILL VRAGOVIC | Times
Grant Balfour, left, puts on his new Rays jersey as manager Joe Maddon, left, looks on.
Closer Grant Balfour, signed to a 2-year, $12-million contract Thursday, isn't the only new face we'll see under a Rays cap this season. Executive VP Andrew Friedman and the front office have been busy throughout the offseason building a team owner Stuart Sternberg believes 'has an opportunity to be special this year.''
View a photo gallery of the newest Rays that are on the 40-man roster or have been invited to spring training.Full Story
Rays OF Matt Joyce and former Rays OF Sam Fuld are both holding camps in the near future.
More on the Rays' deal with Grant Balfour:Full Story
* Balfour's two-year, $12-million contract appears to be the third largest free-agent deal under the Sternberg regime, trailing the three-year, $21-million deal they just gave James Loney and the two-year, $16-million deal Pat Burrell got in 2009.
* After Balfour's two-year, $15-million agreement with Baltimore fell apart, there was some talk about him filing a grievance against the O's. With a deal now set with the Rays, Balfour indicated there may still be something in the works.
"I'm not going to comment on it. We'll see what happens,'' he said. "I'm here to stay. I have a contract with the Rays, and anything else that's going to happen on that part will be taken care of, and we'll move forward. That's not going to affect anything I've got going here. I'm moving on. I'm glad to be here, really happy to be here. That stuff is going to be taken care of by other people on my behalf.''
* Balfour over the past six seasons ranks second among AL relievers in appearances (383), innings pitched (380.1) and strikeouts (410), and fourth in opponents' batting average (.194). The 6.74 hits per nine innings he has allowed over his 10-season career are fifth lowest among all active relievers (min. 300 appearances). His 92.5 save percentage (62 of 67) over the last two seasons is fourth-best in the majors behind Huston Street, Joe Nathan and Craig Kimbrel.
* Balfour has reached the postseason five times - 2004 with the Minnesota Twins, 2008 and 2010 with the Rays, 2012-13 with Oakland - and said his primary goal now is to win the World Series.
* The press conference was held at the Tampa Museum of Art to coincide with a scheduled event for team sponsors. Balfour was introduced first to the sponsors, and then to the media.
* Balfour will make contributions to the Rays Baseball Foundation.
The Rays will announce this afternoon they have signed closer Grant Balfour, the Times has learned. It is a two-year deal for $12-million.
Balfour will give the team a proven closer, replacing Fernando Rodney. Balfour had agreed to a two-year, $15-million deal earlier this off-season with Orioles, but the team pulled back due to concerns over his physical.
Balfour was an All-Star last season for Oakland, saving 38 games while posting a 1-3 record and 2,59 ERA.
The 36-year-old right-hander spent 2007-2010 with the Rays, establishing himself as a solid set-up man, then blossomed into a closer during three seasons with the A's.
At the All-Star Game this year in New York, Balfour, who still has a home in the Clearwater area, told the Times he was open to returning to the Rays, albeit at the right price.
"I don't know what they got on their plate,'' Balfour said. "If they want to throw the checkbook at me, I'm there. I'm open to anything.'' …Full Story
After being traded to San Diego Wednesday, former Rays pitcher Alex Torres posted this message on his Twitter account:
Here are a few more items on today's seven player trade that sent LHP Alex Torres and RHP prospect Jesse Hahn to San Diego for INF/OF Logan Forsythe and RHP Brad Boxberger, plus minor-league RHPs Matt Andriese and Matt Lollis and INF Maxx Tissenbaum.
* Forsythe and Boxberger will go on the Rays 40-man roster, though both have options remaining and thus can start the year or be sent to the minors.
* Andriese was ranked 15th among Padres prospects in the soon-to-be-released Baseball America Prospect Handbook. Forsythe and Boxberger were not eligible, Lollis and Tissenbaum not ranked. Hahn was ranked 15th among the Rays prospects.
* Forsythe started at five positions last season for the Padres - 2B (31), SS (9), 3B (8), LF (7), RF (2). He was one of only six big-leaguers to play in at least 10 games at four or more.
* Torres will slot into the Padres bullpen, with GM Josh Byrnes saying they expect him to be more than just a lefty specialist. Torres said he hoped the deal allowed him to return to starting, but Byrnes said they planned to have him in the bullpen this season but would be open to revisiting the idea in future seasons. …Full Story
UPDATE, 3:03: More from Friedman on trading Torres, and Hahn:
"Torres was obviously phenomenal for us last season and as the calendar turned into January we started really focusing on areas of weakness, places we wanted to be aggressive to augment. Full Story
Logan Forsythe is a guy that we had tried to get previously and a guy that was very high on our target list. From our standpoint, we dealt from an area of depth to address an area of weakness.
Left-handed bullpen is an area of strength for us, at least as we sit here today. Obviously we have (Jake) McGee and (Cesar) Ramos in the big leagues and (C.J.) Riefenhauser and (Jeff) Beliveau that will be in Triple-A and a host of other guys we feel like have a chance to be good major-league lefthanded bullpen options. To us, you've got to give up something to get something. We gave up two arms that we liked a lot to get a number of players we feel like fit us really well.'' …