ST. PETERSBURG — Sean Rodriguez had done a lot for the Rays over the past five seasons, playing anywhere on the field and batting everywhere in the lineup, and thought it was enough to stick around.
But the Rays felt otherwise, designating him for assignment Wednesday to clear roster space for the signing of free-agent reliever Ernesto Frieri.
"I was definitely surprised," Rodriguez said. "I thought with the Rays I was wanted and going to stay for a while. It's just the nature of the business, I guess."
Rodriguez, 29, is projected to make around $2 million through arbitration, and the Rays may have decided that was too much for a part-time player who had a .211 average and .258 on-base percentage last season, though he was second on the team with 12 homers and a .443 slugging percentage. With Tuesday the deadline to tender contracts, the Rays may have let him go then anyway, and they have until then to trade or release him.
"This (stinks) right now, but I feel like it may be an opportunity," he said. "What I bring to the table (in terms of versatility) is something a lot of teams like and want to have more of."
Frieri, 29, had tremendous success from 2010-13 with the Padres and Angels, using a fastball-heavy repertoire and deceptive delivery to post a 2.79 ERA and 313 strikeouts in 2291/3 innings, with 23 and 37 saves the last two years. But he struggled immensely last season, posting a 6.39 ERA with 11 saves in 34 games for the Angels then 10.13 in 14 games after a trade to the Pirates, who released him in September.
The Rays, who have a history of resuscitating veteran relievers, expect a return to form. They didn't risk much, guaranteeing an $800,000 salary with up to $2.35 million more in incentives.
"Ernesto is a strikeout pitcher with a track record of success against both right- and left-handed hitters," vice president Erik Neander said. "He has a unique style and we are confident that pairing his strengths with guidance from (coaches Jim Hickey and Stan Boroski) will lead to good outcomes in 2015."
• Catcher Jose Molina (owed $2.75 million) and infielder Cole Figueroa cleared waivers and were released.
• Cubs GM Jed Hoyer said on Chicago radio they will talk with new manager Joe Maddon about possibly hiring former Rays bench coach Dave Martinez.
D'backs sign Cuban
Cuban outfielder Yasmany Tomas and the Diamondbacks have agreed to a six-year deal worth $68.5 million, mlb.com reported.
The deal includes an opt-out clause after four years and is pending a physical, the website reported. The team did not confirm the agreement.
Tomas, 24, is a corner outfielder who has spent parts of the past seven years playing for the Havana Industriales in Cuba. He's considered one of the nation's top sluggers and likely will bat behind All-Star first baseman Paul Goldschmidt.
Arizona finished a majors-worst 64-98 last season.
WRIGLEY WORK SLOWED: The timeline may be off for the Cubs to have the Wrigley Field bleacher renovation done by opening day. WBBM-TV in Chicago reported that because of November's cold weather, the concrete needed for the renovation's final stages may not done in time for the April 5 home opener against the Cardinals.
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BRAUN HEALING: Outfielder Ryan Braun said he is cautiously optimistic that an offseason procedure has fixed a nagging nerve problem near his right thumb.
BID REBUFFED: The Kia Tigers of the Korean league rejected the winning bid — reportedly by the Rangers — for the rights to negotiate with left-hander Hyeon-jong Yang.
SALARY: Major League Baseball's minimum salary is rising to $507,500 next year from $500,000.
Information from Times wires was used in this report. Contact Marc Topkin at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow @TBTimes_Rays.