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Aybar hoping for clean slate with Rays

JAMES BORCHUCK   |   Times
Willy Aybar takes the field for the first time as a Ray after being trapped, and briefly jailed, in the Dominican Republic.

JAMES BORCHUCK | Times Willy Aybar takes the field for the first time as a Ray after being trapped, and briefly jailed, in the Dominican Republic.

ST. PETERSBURG — When INF Willy Aybar stepped into the batter's box Wednesday for the first time as a Ray, he was greeted with a fan yelling, "Here we go, Willy!"

Aybar, making his much-anticipated arrival after visa issues and legal troubles kept him in the Dominican Republic, said he's "ready to go" and hoping to put his problems behind him.

The 24-year-old, acquired from the Braves in mid January, was expected to be the club's main option at third base, along with INF Joel Guzman, if touted prospect Evan Longoria doesn't break camp. But Aybar was arrested and jailed this month in the Dominican Republic on domestic violence charges. The charges were dropped and Aybar said he and his wife, Yessenia, "are okay." He said he wanted to thank the Rays for their support and apologized for the "distraction."

Manager Joe Maddon said he'll eventually sit down with Aybar and "get everything out on the table." But he added the club did its due diligence before trading for Aybar, who missed all of last season due to an injured right wrist and a three-month stint in a rehab facility for substance abuse.

"I really believe it's gonna be just fine," Maddon said. "I've heard nothing but good things from people that really know him."

Aybar jumped into Wednesday's intrasquad game, going 1-for-2 with a single and making a nice play at third base on a sharp grounder by C Matt Spring.

BONDS MARKET: Jeff Borris, the agent for all-time home run king Barry Bonds, said he had "no further comments" — for now — on potential interest from the Rays. He told SI.com that Bonds had "one goal, and that is to put a ring on his finger,'' which seems to indicate they're hoping for a contending team to show interest.

ROCCO ON TRACK: Rocco Baldelli was a DH in the intrasquad game, which he said was planned all along. Baldelli, who missed most of last season with hamstring injuries, went 0-for-2 while taking it easy on the bases and said all was well. Maddon, who said "weather was a factor" in limiting Baldelli to DH duties, said he will play in the outfield "relatively soon."

INJURY UPDATE: Reid Brignac, the Rays' top shortstop prospect, is out four to seven days with a broken pinky toe in his right foot, sustained Tuesday when he was hit by a Chris Mason pitch. … Executive vice president Andrew Friedman said top draft pick LHP David Price, who was scratched from his intrasquad outing Tuesday due to shoulder stiffness, felt "much better" but didn't throw. Price was scheduled to be seen by Dr. Koco Eaton.

MISCELLANY: For the second straight day, RF Jonny Gomes made huge plays in an intrasquad game. On Wednesday, Gomes had a double, triple and two RBIs to lead Foley's Feinsteins to a 4-0 victory over Martinez's Mud Dogs, avenging the Mud Dogs' 2-1 win from Tuesday. … C Mike Difelice got hit with the ball twice in the same half-inning, once by a pitch, another on a soft liner by Jon Weber. "It's one of those days," he said. … RHP Jae Kuk Ryu has signed, leaving just CF B.J. Upton and RHP Scott Dohmann left unsigned before Friday's deadline.

Joe Smith can be reached at joesmith@sptimes.com.

Aybar hoping for clean slate with Rays 02/27/08 [Last modified: Wednesday, February 27, 2008 11:50pm]
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