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Tampa Bay Rays sign utilityman Jeff Keppinger

ST. PETERSBURG — Jeff Keppinger not only knows what he's getting into with the Rays, he likes the sound of it.

Having spent most of his career in the middle infield, Keppinger signed Friday — getting a one-year deal for $1.525 million plus incentives — to be the next product of the Tampa Bay superutilityman factory. Russ Canzler was designated for assignment to make room on the 40-man roster.

"I'm up for anything," Keppinger said. "I like that prospect rather than a team just limiting me to be a backup at one position, so that kind of attracted me the most."

Though he has made only eight appearances at first base and five in the outfield, and though the Giants let him go because they believed he wasn't good enough at shortstop, Keppinger, 31, said he can handle whatever the Rays have for him.

"I know there's a lot of talk that people tell me I'm limited at playing certain positions, but I don't feel that way. I just go out and do the best I can," he said.

The Rays like his versatility, executive vice president Andrew Friedman saying in a statement that Keppinger will "make an impact in many different ways."

But even more so for his bat, specifically against left-handed pitchers, with a career .321 average and .850 on-base-plus-slugging percentage. Also, Keppinger is a high-contact hitter, striking out only 142 times in 2,287 career plate appearances.

CAMP JOYCE: Outfielder Matt Joyce will host the Sweet Swing Baseball Camp, 9 a.m.-3 p.m. Sunday, at the North Brandon Little League (2915 Kings Highway, Seffner). Cost is $100, with no preregistration required.

Selig sees expanded playoff this season

Commissioner Bud Selig expects baseball to expand its playoffs this season.

Players and owners have already agreed to add another wild-card team in each league but are still deciding whether it would take effect this year or 2013. Selig said there are scheduling issues to be worked out.

"I really believe we'll have the wild card for 2012, this year," he said at a White Sox fan festival. "Clubs really want it."

Meanwhile, players and owners reached an understanding that ties for division titles will be broken on the field under the new format, the Associated Press reported. Since 1995, head-to-head record has been used to determine first place if both teams make the playoffs. But with the start of a one-game wild-card round, it was agreed the difference between first and a wild-card berth is too vital to decide with a formula.

Dodgers Bids: Hedge fund head Steven Cohen and groups that include former manager Joe Torre and former basketball star Magic Johnson have survived the first round of cuts, the Los Angeles Times reported, in bidding for the Dodgers, which were put in bankruptcy by owner Frank McCourt. Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban did not make the cut, the newspaper reported. More than 12 groups submitted initial bids. It was unclear how many advanced to the next stage.

Giants: Utility infielder Ryan Theriot, 32, agreed to a one-year, $1.25 million deal. … Pitcher Tim Lincecum passed his physical and officially signed his $40.5 million, two-year contract.

Phillies: Outfielder Hunter Pence agreed to a one-year deal worth $10.4 million.

Information from the Associated Press was used in this report.

Tampa Bay Rays sign utilityman Jeff Keppinger 01/27/12 [Last modified: Saturday, January 28, 2012 12:16am]
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