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Rays promote Jamie Nelson to assist hitting coach Derek Shelton

NASHVILLE — As the Rays struggled offensively during the season, fans and talk-show callers had all kinds of suggestions for hitting coach Derek Shelton.

Tuesday, the Rays got him some help.

Jamie Nelson, a longtime member of the minor-league staff, was promoted to the big leagues, with the primary duty assisting Shelton, and also to work with the catchers.

"I'm excited about it," Shelton said from Tampa. "I'm excited because of my relationship with Nellie. I think people are starting to realize with this job that a lot of work goes into it. To have two people doing it will be extremely beneficial for the players."

Nelson, 53, has been a manager and coach in the Rays organization for 13 years, the past five as minor-league catching coordinator. He played briefly in the majors for Seattle in 1983 and 11 other seasons in the minors.

The addition of an assistant hitting coach is a quickly growing trend, with more than a dozen teams now doing so. Manager Joe Maddon said the key is for both coaches to deliver the same message, in different ways if necessary, to reach players.

"It's another pair of eyes to watch things and share some of the workload, whether it's looking at data or video, etc., besides just physical work," Maddon said. "And we kind of feel like Jamie and Shelty together is going to be a natural fit."

Nelson will be part of pre-game workouts — he throws great batting practice — but won't be allowed in the dugout during games, though he can work with hitters in the cages and video room.

S-ROD A MILLIONAIRE: The benefit of being arbitration eligible for the first time was obvious for INF Sean Rodriguez, who agreed to terms Tuesday on a one-year deal for $1 million, a nice increase from the $492,800 he made last year when hitting .213.

"I'm just happy I don't have to worry about math throughout the offseason anymore, haha," Rodriguez said in a text message. "I can just focus on getting myself ready for the season, and ready to TRULY contribute this year."

The Rays have five remaining arbitration eligible players: LHP David Price, RHP Jeff Niemann, OFs Sam Fuld and Matt Joyce and INF Ryan Roberts.

RAYS MATTER: Principal owner Stuart Sternberg was on scene at Opryland Monday and Tuesday, checking out the winter meetings for the first time. … New 1B James Loney should complete his physical exam by today, and his one-year, $2 million deal will be official then. … The Rays maintain some level of interest in several of their own free agents, including LHP J.P. Howell (who could be of interest in Washington), RHP Kyle Farnsworth, DH Luke Scott and OF Ben Francisco (who talked with the Giants). Not so much in INF Jeff Keppinger who, according to CBSSports.com, is now looking for $12 million over three years. … RHP Fernando Rodney won the mlb.com GIBBY (Greatness in Baseball Yearly Awards) as the game's top closer.

VICTORINO, OTHER MOVES: The Red Sox agreed to a deal with OF Shane Victorino for the same $39 million over three years they gave C/1B Mike Napoli. Victorino will play right. … The Giants re-signed INF Marco Scutaro to a three-year, $20 million contract. … Washington, which had been rumored to have interest in Rays RHP James Shields, instead signed free agent RHP Dan Haren for one year, $13 million.

Rays promote Jamie Nelson to assist hitting coach Derek Shelton 12/04/12 [Last modified: Tuesday, December 4, 2012 11:54pm]

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