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Tampa Bay Rays sign ex-Florida Marlins reliever Joe Nelson

Cast off by the Marlins, right-handed reliever Joe Nelson had plenty of options with 20-some teams expressing interest. But the more he and wife Teresa Cortinas thought about it, they had a lot of reasons to sign with the Rays.

There was the chance to stay closer to their West Palm Beach area home (and their three kids 5 and younger), to pitch for the defending AL champs, to play for manager Joe Maddon and more. (Cortinas is a USF medical school graduate.) It was enough that Nelson agreed Wednesday to a one-year, $1.3-million deal, pending a physical exam.

"It's been a fabulous Christmas Eve for us," Nelson said. "The overall fit was great. It really couldn't have worked out any better."

Nelson, 34, is coming off his best season, going 3-1 with a 2.00 ERA and .207 average against, striking out 60 and walking 22 in 54 innings over 59 games. He has been in seven organizations and spent most of his career in the minors, including 2005 with the Rays' Triple-A team, and he has yet to spend a full season in the majors. He missed the 2007 season recovering from shoulder surgery.

"I've put in a lot of time and had some injuries, and my family and friends have always supported me," he said. "And to be able to make these calls today to say that I signed in a place that really wants me and that I want to be, I'd be gracious in saying I'm overwhelmed."

Nelson gives the Rays more depth and options in a bullpen that might be without closer Troy Percival at the start of the season as he recovers from back surgery.

Marc Topkin can be reached at topkin

Tampa Bay Rays sign ex-Florida Marlins reliever Joe Nelson 12/24/08 [Last modified: Tuesday, December 30, 2008 3:27pm]
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