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Tampa Bay Rays complete deal with reliever Nelson

ST. PETERSBURG — In the Rays' world of finite resources and roster management, the makeup of the bullpen is often going to be in transition from one season to the next.

They hope the one constant is success.

The Rays were one of the best in the majors last season, and with the formal completion Tuesday of right-hander Joe Nelson's one-year, $1.3-million deal, they feel they can be again in 2009.

"Our bullpen was a large part of our success in 2008, and our quest is to have one of the top bullpens in the American League on an annual basis," executive vice president Andrew Friedman said in a statement. "Adding Joe certainly helps on that front."

With Troy Percival recovering from back surgery, it's not clear if the Rays will have a set closer, at least at first. Dan Wheeler, Grant Balfour, Chad Bradford and lefty J.P Howell are set to return, and Nelson is a versatile type who can pitch in any role.

That leaves one or two spots open depending on Percival, and a couple of starters who may not make the rotation and are out of options, in Jason Hammel and Jeff Niemann, as potential candidates. Plus they selected Derek Rodriguez in the Rule 5 draft.

Nelson, 34, went 3-1 with one save and a 2.00 ERA in a career-high 59 games for the Marlins last season, ranking third among NL relievers in ERA and 10th overall.

The Rays' primary goal is to add an impact bat, and they have been talking to a number of free agents, but they could pursue additional relief help as the market evolves.

Also, utility infielder Ray Olmedo, who played parts of five seasons with the Reds and Jays, signed a minor-league contract, according to Baseball America.

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

Tampa Bay Rays complete deal with reliever Nelson 12/30/08 [Last modified: Friday, January 2, 2009 1:30pm]
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