tampabay.com

New Ray Aybar a free man, should join club in camp

The infielder apologizes and vows to improve behavior.

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


Infielder Willy Aybar is expected to join the Rays in spring training after he was freed from jail and domestic violence charges were dropped Wednesday in the Dominican Republic.

ESPNdeportes.com reported that Aybar's wife, Yessenia, withdrew her complaint and quoted Aybar as apologizing for "a big mistake" and promising to improve behavior that he admitted "has not been the most appropriate sometimes." The report also said Aybar, 24, and Yessenia, 23, who have been married seven years and have three children, have reconciled.

The Rays, in a statement from spokesman Rick Vaughn, said: "While details of this situation remain unclear, we are pleased that it has been resolved. We are encouraged that Willy has expressed remorse and accepted responsibility for his actions. The Rays are committed to providing a support system for him and his family when they arrive in St. Petersburg for spring training."

The Rays sent a letter to Dominican court officials promising to offer support to Aybar, who faced the possibility of three months in jail. Acquired in January from Atlanta, Aybar came to the Rays with a troubled past, having spent three months last season in a substance abuse rehab clinic. The Rays aren't sure when he will arrive as the trade, which changed his employer, could lead to a delay in getting a visa.

Aybar asked for forgiveness from his family and the Rays and said: "I know that if I focus, I can become a great baseball player, but also I want to be a good father, husband and citizen."

Rays sign lefty Miller

The Rays filled their glaring need for a proven left-handed reliever, bringing back Trever Miller on a $1.6-milllion contract, with a $2-million option or $400,000 buyout for 2009.

Miller, a Ray in 2004-05, has been primarily a left-handed specialist and done relatively well, holding lefty hitters to a .238 average over parts of nine big-league seasons. He lives year-round in Land O'Lakes and welcomed the chance to come back after pitching the past two seasons in Houston.

"It's been a blessing to be able to play big-league ball at home," said Miller, 34. "I didn't think it would happen again."

Miller had a 4.86 ERA in 76 games last season and has a career 12-14 record, eight saves and a 4.46 ERA.

"Trever is going to add a lot to the bullpen on and off the field," Rays executive VP Andrew Friedman said. "He's been very consistent getting out left-handed hitters and his strikeouts (310 in 379 innings) are always above average. We have really missed having a consistent lefty in the pen the past couple years."

HINSKE SIGNS: Infielder/outfielder Eric Hinske, the 2002 AL rookie of the year with Toronto, signed a minor-league contract with an invitation to spring training. Hinske, 30, a left-handed hitter, spent last season as a reserve with Boston, hitting .204.

Marc Topkin can be reached at topkin@sptimes.com.