Dipping into the pool of major-league veterans who couldn't find work this season, the Devil Rays on Wednesday agreed to terms with outfielder Luis Polonia and assigned him to Mexico City.
The 32-year-old, who compiled a .292 average playing parts of 10 seasons in the majors, could end up with an invitation to the Rays' first major-league training camp next spring if he plays well in Mexico City, director of player personnel Bill Livesey said. "Both parties hope that happens," Livesey said.
Polonia, known for his speed and slap hitting, started last season in the Baltimore organization, playing 13 games at Triple A and 58 with the Orioles, but was released in August. He signed with the Braves and ended up playing in the World Series, going 0-for-5 as a pinch-hitter. He had played with the A's, Yankees and Angels.
"His agent told us he was available and that he might be interested in going there for us because it might be something more involved than a one-year proposition," Livesey said.
Polonia had a physical exam in Mexico City and was to be in the Tigers' starting lineup for Wednesday night's season opener. He had impressed Rays scouts with his play for the Dominican Republic team in the Caribbean World Series.
If any other team wants to bring Polonia straight to the majors this season, the Rays have agreed to let him go, though they would receive compensation.
Meanwhile, the other former Braves outfielder assigned to Mexico City, Dwight Smith, returned to St. Petersburg for medical tests. He is having trouble with his sciatic nerve and is day-to-day, farm director Tom Foley said.
DECISION TIME: With two weeks until the minor-league seasons begin, Rays officials plan to make cuts and reassign some players to the extended spring training group (meaning they will play for the short-season teams) in the next few days. "We'll start to make some of those decisions by the weekend," Foley said.
ON THE FIELD: The St. Petersburg team beat the Blue Jays 6-2 in eight innings. Roberto Colina, Scott Romano and Joe Pomierski hit triples. Travis Cain allowed one hit and one run in three innings. Jason Berry, pitching against his Rays teammates because the Jays were short on pitching, tossed a sharp 1-2-3 inning. Former major-leaguer Rick White allowed two runs in his inning of work, also against his teammates.
The Charleston team lost 6-3 to the Phillies. Pablo Ortega allowed two hits over three innings as the staff overall allowed just five hits.
WHITE THURSDAY: Top prospect Matt White is scheduled to make his second exhibition start at 1 p.m. today against the Yankees at Huggins-Stengel. White allowed six hits in 1 innings in his debut. James Manias will pitch for St. Petersburg at the Cardinals Complex in northwest St. Petersburg. On Friday, Bobby Seay makes his second start for Charleston against the Yankees at 10 a.m. in Tampa. The Cardinals canceled the other scheduled game, so the Rays will play a simulated game at 10 a.m. at the Huggins-Stengel.
MISCELLANY: Pitcher Julio Manon, a right-hander from the Dominican Republic, was signed and joined the workouts. Greg Blosser and Ed Larregui played for the first time Wednesday. Blosser, who played briefly with the Red Sox, was 1-for-4 in his first game since June. Larregui was 1-for-3. Colina made his first appearance at first base.
Did you know?
Pitcher Kyle Whitley and catcher/outfielder Chris Anderson were college teammates (and, for a time, roommates) at Southeastern Oklahoma State. (A third member of the Savages, R.J. Howerton, also was with the Rays but retired.) The two didn't get to play together last season because Whitley was assigned to Butte and Anderson to Hudson Valley, but they hope to be reunited this season, perhaps at Charleston, S.C. "It's something we think about in the back of our minds," Anderson said. "That would be kind of neat," Whitley said. Anderson hasn't had a chance to catch Whitley this spring but did play rightfield the other day when Whitley was pitching.