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Free-agent 2B will give Rays more options

By BRUCE LOWITT, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published January 17, 2003

ST. PETERSBURG -- The Devil Rays signed free-agent second baseman Marlon Anderson to a one-year contract Thursday, creating competition for Brent Abernathy. Manager Lou Piniella said he also plans to try him elsewhere.

"I feel it's a situation where nobody's got any ups on anybody for the job," said Anderson, 29, who spent parts of five seasons with the Phillies, a team that has signed several high-priced stars. "The Devil Rays are a building organization that just hired Lou Piniella, so I feel pretty good about that. He turned Seattle around. ... He's not going to come into a situation where he's going to have to put up with losing year in and year out. I like the situation I'm coming into."

Anderson signed a $600,000 contract and can earn $200,000 in performance bonuses.

Anderson batted .258 with 30 doubles, 8 home runs and 48 RBIs in 145 games last year to Abernathy's .242, 18 doubles, 2 homers and 40 RBIs. Anderson's career average is .266 with 97 doubles, 26 homers and 182 RBIs. His best season was 2001: .293 with 30 doubles, 11 homers and 61 RBIs in 147 games. He has been the Phillies starter at second since they traded Mickey Morandini to Toronto Aug. 6, 2000.

"He's got a good left-hand bat, got a little sock and he's already played on AstroTurf," Piniella said. "He gives us an experienced bat, a good top-of-the-lineup type hitter."

One scouting report calls him an aggressive hitter who looks for the early fastball. He batted .381 when hitting the first pitch but his on-base percentage was .236 when behind in the count.

"We'll let him compete at second base and at the same time I'd like to see if we can get him to learn to play a little third base and play the outfield," Piniella said. "I've had good success (in Seattle) with players that have been able to do these sorts of things -- Richie Amaral, Mark McLemore, Desi Relaford, who I had last year. We like to move players around a little bit. My style is, the guys who are doing the job, I like to find a place for them in the lineup. The more positions you can play, certainly the better."

The Rays also signed free-agent pitcher Steve Parris to a minor-league contract. He was 5-5 with a 5.97 ERA in 14 games with Toronto in 2002. ALVAREZ TO DODGERS: Los Angeles signed former Rays left-hander Wilson Alvarez to a minor-league contract with an invitation to spring training. He will get a $750,000 one-year contract if he makes the major-league roster. ... The Yankees signed former Rays catcher John Flaherty to a minor-league contract and invited him to spring training.

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