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Tampa Bay Rays sign Jason Isringhausen

Popular player First baseman Carlos Peña signs autographs for fans after Friday’s workout in Port Charlotte. Starting at about 10:50 a.m. today, Peña and his teammates will take live batting practice for the first time this spring.

BRIAN CASSELLA | Times

Popular player First baseman Carlos Peña signs autographs for fans after Friday’s workout in Port Charlotte. Starting at about 10:50 a.m. today, Peña and his teammates will take live batting practice for the first time this spring.

PORT CHARLOTTE — The Rays are bringing former All-Star closer Jason Isringhausen to camp, agreeing Friday to a minor-league deal.

The right-hander, 36, struggled for much of his seventh and last season in St. Louis, was shut down in August with elbow tendinitis and had surgery to repair a torn flexor tendon on Sept. 12. He finished 1-5 with 12 saves out of 19 chances and a 5.70 ERA.

The 13-year veteran has recovered enough to throw bullpen sessions. And though he will be monitored early, he is expected to pitch in games next month. If healthy and effective, he could give the Rays additional bullpen depth as Chad Bradford and Troy Percival recover from surgery.

Isringhausen, who lives in the bay area, will join the Rays in camp this morning. He has 293 saves and a 3.61 ERA in 13 seasons with the Mets, A's and Cardinals.

More recognition: OF Fernando Perez said last spring training, "nobody would have asked me to loan my face for any sort of cause."

Then a minor-league invitee to camp, Perez said he was often mistaken for OF B.J. Upton, even by Rays fans. But he found out in the winter what helping in a World Series run could do for his profile.

Perez, 25, was asked to help headline several charity events, from his cousin's City of Angels Little League camp in Los Angeles to a sports variety show in New York.

And in January, the New Jersey native was asked by Hall of Fame baseball writer Peter Gammons to join Red Sox 2B Dustin Pedroia, manager Terry Francona and GM Theo Epstein for their "Hot Stove, Cool Music" program benefiting inner-city programs in Boston and New York.

Perez said that Red Sox fans were cordial but asked him about the Rays losing Game 5 of the ALCS after being up 7-0: "I couldn't believe they really even wanted me to go (there)."

Perez, who was called up on Aug. 31, appeared in five postseason games and scored the winning run in the 11th inning of Game 2 of the ALCS against Boston. That makes this spring very different for Perez, who went from getting a taste of the big leagues to feeling "in the mix."

"I'm at a point, a sink-or-swim point," he said. "You have to do your part on the field, and your offseason can be filled with lots of fun."

But does he still get mistaken for Upton? "All the time," he said.

Some things never change.

NEW STUFF: RHP Wade Davis is one of several pitchers scheduled to throw live batting practice today (with more live batting practice Sunday). Fans might notice a few changes in his repertoire. Davis said he added a slider during a stint at Triple A last season and has made significant strides on his changeup.

Davis, 23, the pitcher of the year for Double-A Montgomery last season, said he's a lot more relaxed and confident for this camp.

"I'm definitely a little different in a lot of ways," he said. "Last year, fastball-curveball was my only thing. Now I've got a little more to work with."

BACK ON the HILL: LHP Jake McGee, one of the Rays' top pitching prospects, plans to throw off the mound Monday for the first time since Tommy John surgery in July. Though he'll throw just 20 pitches, all fastballs, it will be a big step.

McGee, 22, made 15 starts for Montgomery last season before tearing the ulnar collateral ligament in his left elbow.

"I was kind of crushed because I knew I would have had a chance to be in Triple A and maybe up (in the majors) in September," he said. "Now I never know what would have happened."

McGee said his early goal is to be back in July and eventually join Class A Charlotte.

MISCELLANY: Noted sports psychologist Ken Ravizza planned to address the Rays before today's workout. … RHP Matt Garza is scheduled to sign autographs at the Port Charlotte Wal-Mart, 19100 Murdock Circle, from 2 to 3 p.m. Sunday. … The Rays host an open house at 10 a.m. Monday at the Charlotte Sports Park.

Tampa Bay Rays sign Jason Isringhausen 02/20/09 [Last modified: Tuesday, April 6, 2010 1:56pm]
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