Thursday, May 24, 2018
Tampa Bay Rays

Tampa Bay Rays manager Joe Maddon excited by addition of Hideki Matsui

ST. PETERSBURG — The Rays signed former All-Star OF/DH Hideki Matsui to a minor-league contract without any promises or guarantees of a promotion to the majors.

But manager Joe Maddon certainly sounded comforted, if not outright excited, by the possibility the soon-to-be 38-year-old lefty slugger could be available to help after a stint in the minors.

"He's a wonderful weapon for us to have," Maddon said. "I can't be very specific with you because I'm not sure how this is going to all play out. All I can tell you, very specifically, is I really love the idea of him being with us in this organization and getting him ready and seeing how this all plays out."

Matsui — who remains a major deal in his native country based on the 20-plus Japanese journalists on hand Monday — will have a news conference at the Trop today then report to extended spring training in Port Charlotte on Wednesday, with the plan to join Triple-A Durham by mid May.

Matsui was unsigned for this season after playing nine years in the majors, seven with the Yankees, then one each with the Angels and A's, compiling a .285 average, 173 home runs and 753 RBIs in 1,202 games, making the 2003 and '04 All-Star teams. Before that, he played 10 seasons in Japan, nine as an All-Star, hitting .304 with 332 homers and 889 RBIs. He is the only player to have a combined 500 homers in Japan and the majors.

"Over the past two decades, Hideki has been one of the most consistently productive hitters in the world," Rays executive VP Andrew Friedman said in a team release. "We are happy to add his ability, approach and professionalism to our organization."

The Rays will have Matsui go to Durham with the idea that they'll see how he is hitting and how their team looks — who might be hurt, what their needs are — at the time.

"We'll just get him ready and see what it looks like at that appropriate moment," Maddon said.

Though he said there's no specific plan and stressed they are quite happy with Luke Scott as DH, Maddon twice brought up, unprompted, that Scott, as he completes his recovery from shoulder surgery, eventually will be able to play first and the outfield. When he does, the Rays could decide they'd rather have Scott and Matsui than Scott and Brandon Allen, presently the extra outfielder/backup first baseman.

Yankees manager Joe Girardi said in New York the Rays are getting a good man: "They're getting a true professional, a wonderful teammate. … To me, he was a great player for the New York Yankees, and he had a pretty good second half last year."

Details of Matsui's contract were not immediately available.

MOORE IS LESS: Rookie LHP Matt Moore joked with RHP Jeff Niemann about "the goose egg" under the W next to his name, but he said he isn't too concerned about being winless as he makes his fifth start tonight. "It's going to be good pitching here at home," Moore said. "I like the energy here and the mound and everything is good. It's a real comfortable feeling for me. We've got two (starts) coming up; I'm sure something will happen there."

MINOR MATTERS: Durham snapped its franchise-record 13-game losing streak Monday with a 1-0 win over Indianapolis. A day after the Bulls were no-hit, Durham starter Matt Torra took a no-hitter into the eighth. … Durham put OF Brandon Guyer on the DL with a left ankle sprain and moved struggling LHP Alex Torres (1-3, 10.38, 19 hits, 21 walks in 17⅓ innings) to the bullpen.

MISCELLANY: The Rays are a major-league best 9-1 at home (with three walkoff wins) and 5-1 in one-run games. … Carlos Peña was 0-for-11 vs. M's starter Felix Hernandez and went 2-for-3. … OF Desmond Jennings, who was supposed to be off, came in in the 10th and was 0-for-2, snapping his hitting streak at 11. … Seattle C Miguel Olivo left with a groin strain.

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