Unhappy Cantu to play for Durham
By MARC TOPKIN
Published April 4, 2007
NEW YORK - Disgruntled and demoted second baseman Jorge Cantu will report to Triple-A Durham in time for Thursday's season opener and will be focused and prepared to play hard, agent Steve Canter said Tuesday.
But whether Cantu plays again for the Devil Rays could be another issue.
Cantu responded to the demotion by requesting the Rays trade him, and Canter initially didn't want to address whether Cantu could put his hurt feelings aside to eventually rejoin them or how long he would be willing to stay in the minors. He contacted the Times later to say Cantu would play wherever he was assigned.
"Our request was firm. I think that sums it up," Canter said. "I think right now he's focused on going to Durham and working hard. He's made the trade request, and we're going to go from there."
Cantu has been in the majors since coming up in 2004 and was the Rays' team MVP in 2005. He had a poor and injury-marred season in 2006, has been working hard to rebound and was stunned at the demotion saying, "I am not a minor-league player."
Canter said his conversations with Rays executive vice president Andrew Friedman did not include any deadlines for a deal. The Rays are not obligated to honor the trade request.
"The club did not provide a time frame," Canter said. "He's going to go there and work and turn this into something positive. He's going to get after it. He's a tough guy."
The Rays have had concerns about Cantu's defense, specifically a lack of range, and decided to send him down when they were comfortable that B.J. Upton could do a better job at second base. He also was considered for a part-time designated hitter role and lost out on that to Jonny Gomes. At Durham, Cantu is expected to be primarily a DH.
Canter disputed the Rays' evaluation of his client.
"The club said they moved Jorge off second base because of his defense. But Jorge didn't make an error all spring, and his range has vastly improved. So I question the validity of that," Canter said. "I think the facts speak for themselves."
Canter also suggested the Rays might miss Cantu more than they think.
"There are other leaders on the club, but I think this club is going to miss his leadership and his bat," Canter said. "He also was one of the club's most popular players and appreciates all the support of his fans. That being said, Jorge will go to Durham and turn this into something positive and with class."
This is a big year for Cantu (who has a $410,200 salary in the majors and $213,480 in the minors) because at the end of the season, he was to be eligible for arbitration and the big raise that comes with it. Eligibility is determined by major-league service time, so a long stay in the minors could force him to wait another year before cashing in.
Marc Topkin can be reached at topkin @sptimes.com or (727) 893-8801. View his blog at blogs.tampabay.com/rays/.