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Rays bring back Chris Mazza, add lefty on minor-league deals

Despite the lockout, teams are allowed to conduct some business so pitching depth was added.
Chris Mazza pitched in 14 games during nine stints with the Rays in 2021.
Chris Mazza pitched in 14 games during nine stints with the Rays in 2021. [ IVY CEBALLO | Times ]
Published Jan. 11

ST. PETERSBURG — Though the owners-implemented lockout has shut down most of baseball’s usual offseason business, the Rays have added some pitching depth for the 2022 season, whenever it starts.

Teams still are allowed to sign free agents to minor-league contracts, which are not subject to the transactions freeze.

The Rays in the last week have added two pitchers, bringing back right-hander Chris Mazza and bringing in lefty Zach Erwin.

Mazza, 32, pitched in 14 games during nine stints with the Rays in 2021, compiling a 4.61 ERA in a multi-inning relief role and collecting his first career save. He spent most of the season at Triple-A Durham, going 4-1, 3.16, after being acquired from Boston in a February trade.

Erwin, 27, has yet to pitch in the majors, splitting 2021 between Oakland’s Double-A Midland and Triple-A Las Vegas teams, going 6-4, 4.00 with three saves in 49 games, striking out 67 and walking 23 in 63 innings. He was a 2015 fourth-round pick from Clemson by the White Sox, then was traded to the A’s in December 2015.

Fitting of the state of the game, both Mazza and Erwin announced their signings on Twitter.

Before the lockout, the Rays had signed right-handers David Hess and Aaron Slegers to minor-league deals, and have right-hander Adrian De Horta coming to camp for the second year of a two-year minor-league deal signed in 2021.

Team officials are in the process of finalizing their minor-league coaching and training staffs for 2022, having had to navigate a large number of promotions and several departures. Among those added was hitting coach Paul Rozzelle, who had been the head coach at Catawba Valley (N.C.) Community College for the past eight years.

The Rays also are planning to be active on Saturday’s opening of the international free-agent signing period, which was delayed from its usual July 1 date. Per Baseball America, the top prospect most connected to the Rays is shortstop Miguel Tamares, a 17-year-old fast and athletic switch-hitter ranked 40th in the class. The Rays are one of six teams with a reported signing bonus pool of $5,721,200, the second-largest grouping.

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