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Rays stock up on veteran catchers among 8 signings

Should free-agent catcher John Flaherty sign to play somewhere else next season, the Devil Rays appear to have a few candidates to back up starter Toby Hall.

Tampa Bay announced Thursday that catchers Sandy Martinez, Angel Pena and Charlie Greene were among eight players signed to minor-league contracts with invitations to major-league spring training. Infielder Justin Baughman, outfielder Ryan Jackson and pitchers Cedric Bowers, Leslie Brea and Jeremi Gonzalez also were signed.

Martinez, 32, has the most major-league experience of the three catchers. He played in 214 games with the Blue Jays, Cubs, Marlins and Expos from 1995-2001. Last season he played in 39 games with Triple-A Ottawa.

Pena, who appeared in 71 games with the Dodgers from 1998-2001, batted .262 with 8 homers and 34 RBIs in 72 games for Triple-A Fresno in the Giants organization last season.

Greene, 31, spent last season with Triple-A Calgary in the Marlins organization, batting .250 with 7 homers and 41 RBIs in 99 games, and has played in 55 major-league games with the Mets, Orioles, Brewers and Blue Jays.

Jackson, 30, was in the Rays organization in 2000. Baughman, Bowers, Gonzalez and Brea played with Triple-A teams last season.

MLB in pitch to softball

NEW YORK _ Major League Baseball wants to attract more women and families, and thinks softball might be one way to do it.

The sport announced a partnership with National Pro Fastpitch, the new name of the 5-year-old Women's Pro Softball League.

The fast-pitch league will start next summer with a tour of exhibition games, clinics and interactive fan activities in 12 to 14 cities in connection with major-league games.

WELLS ATTACKER CONVICTED: Rocco Graziosa was convicted of assault for punching Yankees pitcher David Wells and knocking out two of his teeth during an early morning fight in a Manhattan diner.

The Manhattan Criminal Court jury deliberated less than three hours. The Yankees star was not in court, and Graziosa showed no emotion when the verdict was read. He faces up to a year in jail, and was ordered to stay away from Wells while remaining out on bail.

Graziosa was acquitted of harassment and possession of a weapon _ a butter knife he was accused of waving at Wells after knocking the pitcher to the floor on Sept. 7.

TIGERS: Former manager Larry Parrish was hired as manager of the Triple-A Toledo Mud Hens.

YANKEES: The team purchased the contracts of right-hander Ben Rivera and catcher Michel Hernandez and added them to the 40-man roster. Former New York manager Stump Merrill was named manager of the new Double-A team in Trenton. He managed the Triple-A team at Columbus last season.

_ Information from Times wires was used in this report.

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