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Sean Rodriguez, Reid Brignac to battle for Tampa Bay Rays shortstop job in spring training

DALLAS — With no plans for an upgrade from the outside, manager Joe Maddon plans to have Reid Brignac and Sean Rodriguez settle the Rays shortstop position this spring the old-fashioned way.

"It's an open competition is what it is," Maddon said.

Brignac was expected to take over last season for Jason Bartlett, but he struggled so much offensively (.193) he lost his job and was sent briefly to the minors. Rodriguez eventually took over and while he "probably exceeded" expectations defensively didn't hit much better (.223 overall). Brignac ended up starting 76 games, Rodriguez 49.

Maddon has called both this offseason to update them: "They're both aware that they'll be battling it out."

Among other topics, Maddon said he hoped with the benefit of the team's training staff that C Jose Molina, who turns 37 in June, could catch "80-plus, hopefully" games; relievers Jake McGee and Brandon Gomes are "in the mix" for opening-day roster spots; he would be "a little surprised" if the Rays didn't trade a starting pitcher; and free agent Hideki Matsui is "definitely a name that would come up" in their DH search.

Also, free-agent 1B Casey Kotchman may have another option besides returning to the Rays, as the Indians are reported to have interest. … Executive VP Andrew Friedman said the Rays "have cast a pretty wide net" in their search to add another one or two relievers.

"HEAD" COACH: Greg Riddoch has been hired as the Rays' mental skills coach. Riddoch, a former Padres manager and Devil Rays coach (1998-99), will work with players on different mental aspects of the game, much as sports psychologist Ken Ravizza did in 2009-10. Riddoch, 66, will join the Rays for spring training, then split time during the season between the major and minor leagues.

MIAMI WISHES: With his team on a spending spree with a new stadium set to open, Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria has these words for the Rays' efforts: "We're wishing them nothing but the best trying to get that done. It was a long road for us and we're now seeing the fruits of all the decade of work." … The Marlins formally introduced closer Heath Bell, who signed a three-year, $27 million deal. They have reached agreement with SS Jose Reyes and are still talking about 1B Albert Pujols.

HALL CALL: Former Cubs great Ron Santo was elected posthumously to the Hall of Fame by the Veterans Committee through the Golden Era ballot. Santo, who died in December 2010, hit .277 with 342 homers and 1,331 RBIs in 15 seasons, 14 with the Cubs. He was not elected during 15 years on the BBWAA ballot nor three times by the previous incarnation of the veterans committee.

RUMOR MILL: Free-agent LHP C.J. Wilson reportedly has a six-year offer from the Nationals. … The Brewers are said to be resigned to losing 1B Prince Fielder. … RHP Matt Capps is close to re-signing with the Twins. … The Dodgers signed INF Jerry Hairston Jr. and are talking to RHP Aaron Harang.

ELSEWHERE: Charles Crawford said Red Sox clubhouse manager Donald Fitzpatrick sexually abused him and another teen working in Boston's clubhouse in the early '90s. Both men are seeking $5 million settlements from the team. Fitzpatrick died in 2005.

Sean Rodriguez, Reid Brignac to battle for Tampa Bay Rays shortstop job in spring training 12/05/11 [Last modified: Monday, December 5, 2011 11:54pm]
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