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Rays add OF, final trims on deck

ST. PETERSBURG — The Rays found the extra outfielder they were seeking by claiming Nathan Haynes off waivers from the Angels on Friday, and appeared to settle on Scott Dohmann for the last bullpen spot and Elliot Johnson as their utility infielder.

But they're going to wait until after today's spring finale to decide between Joel Guzman and Eric Hinske and make their 25-man roster official. They also want one more day to check on the health of third baseman Willy Aybar and to be sure there are no questions about DH Cliff Floyd.

If Aybar, who the Rays said seemed to be over his left hamstring soreness in a minor-league game Friday, is okay, then Hinske, who provides more offense and is a better outfielder, seems the likely choice for the last spot on the bench, with Guzman, who is better defensively at third, optioned to Triple-A Durham.

Seeking to preserve their options in case of an injury today, the Rays took the unusual step Friday of saying who didn't make the team, but not who did.

But with Grant Balfour saying he was told he would be designated for assignment today, that gives the final bullpen spot to Dohmann. With Andy Cannizaro saying he was headed to Triple A, that makes Johnson the utility middle infielder (at least until Ben Zobrist comes off the disabled list).

And with veterans Mike Difelice (to Durham) and Josh Paul (likely released) gone, Shawn Riggans will be the backup catcher.

The Rays were willing to talk plenty about Haynes, a 28-year-old left-handed speedster who can provide needed backup in centerfield and depth at the corners, perhaps sharing time in rightfield with right-handed hitting Jonny Gomes.

Though the outfield-rich Angels deemed him extraneous but tried to get him through waivers to keep him, the Rays see him as a solid addition.

"He's a fine young man, and he's got a bunch of tools also," manager Joe Maddon said. "He's very fast. He's a fine outfielder. He throws well. And his hitting is really coming on also."

Haynes is a something of a story of perseverance, having spent more than 10 seasons in the minors, enduring eight surgeries and signing with an independent-league team before making his major-league debut in May.

He hit .267 in 40 big-league games (3-for-5 against the Rays) but has solid minor-league numbers, including a career .281 average, .351 on-base percentage and 254 steals.

"He's a very interesting young man," Maddon said.

Johnson hadn't heard anything official Friday, but since Cannizaro was the only other backup shortstop, Johnson, who hit .207 last season at Triple A, makes the unlikely jump.

Balfour had the better spring than Dohmann, posting a 3.00 ERA in 10 games (allowing only four runs) even after a rough outing Thursday. The Rays, however, apparently felt more comfortable with Dohmann, who had an 8.74 spring ERA (16 hits and four walks in 111/3 innings), but pitched well for them in the second half last season. They had to pick because both were out of options, and they will have 10 days to trade, release or pass Balfour through waivers. Though he agreed to a split contract to pitch at Durham, Balfour hopes to get picked up by another big-league team.

"I thought I threw the ball pretty good, but at the end of the day it makes no difference — I'm out of here," Balfour said. "They know who they want from the get-go, probably. I don't know what they wanted to do. I could have maybe given up no runs and still not made this team. I don't know. It's disappointing."

The moves leave the Rays with 29 players, four over the limit in advance of Sunday's 3 p.m. deadline. But three are headed elsewhere — relievers Kurt Birkins and Chad Orvella likely to the disabled list; and Juan Salas, who is finally expected to report next week after a six-week visa delay, to the minors.

Marc Topkin can be reached at topkin@sptimes.com.

>>FAST FACTS

Rays moves

The roster won't be official until after today's game, with a few moves remaining, but here is what the Rays did Friday:

Claimed

OF Nathan Haynes off waivers, from Angels

Said didn't make team

RHP Grant Balfour, INF Andy Cannizaro, C Mike Difelice, RHP Scott Munter, C Josh Paul, INF Chris Richard, OF John Rodriguez, OF Jon Weber

Placed on 60-day DL

OF Rocco Baldelli

Rays add OF, final trims on deck 03/28/08 [Last modified: Friday, March 28, 2008 10:40pm]
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