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Veterans join Rays' pen mix

By MARC TOPKIN
Published January 13, 2004

ST. PETERSBURG - One of the Devil Rays' goals was to add experience to their bullpen, and they appear to be giving themselves plenty of options.

The Rays announced plans Monday to bring three veteran big-league relievers - Todd Jones, Mike Holtz and Al Reyes - to spring training on minor-league contracts and are close to a deal with another, 2003 NL All-Star Mike Williams.

Also signing minor-league deals were third baseman Fernando Tatis, who hit 34 homers for St. Louis in 1999 but has struggled and been injured since, and catcher Mitch Meluskey, who hit .300 in 117 games as a Houston rookie in 2000 but has played 37 games since because of injuries.

The Rays also re-signed third baseman Jared Sandberg and veteran right-hander Carlos Reyes to minor-league deals.

Jones, 35, matched the AL high with 42 saves in 2000 but has saved 14 since, splitting last season between the Rockies and Red Sox with a 3-5 record and 7.07 ERA. He has a 39-42 career record, 184 saves in 233 chances and a 4.06 ERA.

Al Reyes, 33, split last season between the Yankees and Triple-A Columbus. He has pitched in 220 big-league games, going 15-8 with three saves and a 4.06 ERA, but hasn't spent a full season in the majors since 1995.

Holtz, 31, is a left-hander who spent last season with Pittsburgh's Triple-A team but parts of seven previous in the majors, going 16-20 with three saves and a 4.68 ERA.

Sandberg, who hit .213 with six homers in limited action, became a free agent when the Rays didn't tender him a contract in December. Carlos Reyes, who was 0-3 with a 5.22 ERA in 10 games for the Rays, became a free agent after the season by refusing an outright assignment to Triple A.

Tatis, 28, and Williams may be the most interesting of the group.

Tatis, who'd get $750,000 plus the chance for $1.1-million in incentives if he is added to the 40-man roster, could give the Rays some needed power if he can regain his 1999 form. He struggled during three seasons in Montreal, hitting .194 last season, then going on the disabled list for the final 31/2 months with inflammation in his chest wall.

Williams, 35, saved 46 games for Pittsburgh in 2002 and was the Pirates' All-Star selection last season before being traded to Philadelphia, finishing with 28 saves. For his career, he has a 32-54 record, 4.45 ERA and 144 saves in 169 chances.

GUERRERO DEAL FINALIZED: Rightfielder Vladimir Guerrero passed his physical and finalized his $70-million, five-year contract with the Angels.

The four-time All-Star received the highest average salary among this offseason's free agents, $14-million.

Guerrero spoke in Spanish at a news conference, then uttered a few words in English before owner Arte Moreno stepped in to interpret.

"He said, "I am very happy to be here,' " Moreno said. "And I am very happy to be here, too."

KENDALL TALKS RESTARTED: The long-rumored trade that would send catcher Jason Kendall home to San Diego and free the Pirates of millions of dollars in contract obligations is nearing completion.

The teams were working to finalize a trade in which the Pirates would get third baseman Jeff Cirillo and catcher Ramon Hernandez for Kendall.

Meanwhile, Pirates right-hander Kris Benson, coming off his second straight injury-shortened season, plans to throw off a mound for the first time in six months at minicamp this week in Bradenton.

UMP RETIRES: Umpire Steve Rippley, a St. Petersburg native and former Northeast High player, retired after working in the majors for 20 years. Rippley will be replaced by Dan Iassogna, a professional umpire for 12 seasons.

EXPOS: Major League Baseball went to southeastern Virginia, with executives checking the Hampton Roads region as a possible relocation spot. The delegation met with Norfolk officials and a group representing unidentified investors trying to bring baseball to one of the country's largest metropolitan areas without major-league sports.

PHILLIES: Outfielder Doug Glanville, who played for the team from 1998 to 2002, agreed to a $550,000, one-year contract.

RANGERS: Left-hander Kenny Rogers, a Plant City resident, agreed to a $6-million, two-year contract to return to Texas, which also bolstered its bullpen by signing right-hander Jeff Nelson to a $1.5-million, one-year deal.

RED SOX: Team president and chief executive officer Larry Lucchino signed an extension to remain with the team through 2011.

YANKEES: Tony Clark agreed to a $750,000, one-year contract to back up first baseman Jason Giambi, who had left knee surgery after the season. ... Former Chicago Bulls GM Jerry Krause will be introduced today as a special assistant to baseball operations, the Chicago Tribune reported.

- Information from Times wires was used in this report.

[Last modified January 13, 2004, 01:33:02]

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