Ex-Ray Difelice to battle for backup job

By MARC TOPKIN, Times Staff Writer
Published January 7, 2008

An original Ray is coming back.

Catcher Mike Difelice, a Ray from 1998-2001, agreed to terms on a minor-league contract with an invitation to spring training and the opportunity to compete for a backup job.

"I've been with the Rays," he said Sunday. "I know where they're trying to get to. I wanted to be part of it and I still want to be."

Difelice, 38, spent most of the past three seasons with the Mets' Triple-A team, playing just 42 games in the big leagues, and only 17 the year before that with the Tigers and Cubs. His last full major-league season was 2003.

Difelice had offers with the Mets and other teams but said the opportunity for a major-league job as well as the chance to return to the Rays and play near his Palm Harbor home led him to take their offer.

"There were a lot of factors," he said. "I wanted the opportunity to compete."

The Rays have three catchers on their 40-man roster, starter Dioner Navarro and prospects Shawn Riggans and John Jaso, but little experience after letting Josh Paul and Raul Casanova go, though Paul could return.