Saturday, May 15, 2010
Rays designate Burrell for assignment
ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- Pat Burrell's unproductive stint in Tampa Bay is over.
The Rays designated the ex-Philadelphia slugger for assignment before Saturday's game against Seattle and selected the contract of former Texas Rangers infielder Hank Blalock from Triple-A Durham.
Burrell has struggled since signing with the Rays two months after helping the Phillies beat Tampa Bay in the 2008 World Series. He batted .221 with 14 homers and 64 RBIs in 2009, while making the transition from everyday outfielder to designated hitter.
The 33-year-old was hitting .202 with two homers and 13 RBIs in 24 games this season. He was 2 for 25 with no extra-base hits or RBIs in May and batted .053 (1 for 19) against left-handed pitching.
"I don't think it totally caught him off-guard," Rays manager Joe Maddon said, noting the righty-hitting Burrell's playing time had decreased because of Willy Aybar's success against left-handed pitching.
Tampa Bay will be responsible for the remainder of Burrell's $9 million salary in the second season of a $16 million, two-year contract. If he's released, a team that signs him would pay just a prorated share of the $400,000 minimum.
In the unlikely event he's traded, Burrell would receive a $200,000 bonus.
In addition to serving as a DH against lefty pitching, the Rays could use Blalock some at first and third base.
"We feel like with Hank's left-handed bat and positional flexibility that it fits us better right now," executive vice president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman said, adding Blalock's addition also figures to make the bench stronger for interleague play.
"It was not a primary reason for the move," Friedman added, "but it definitely helps as we go into National League parks."
Blalock, who signed a minor league contract with the Rays in March, is a two-time All-Star who spent the first eight seasons of his career with the Texas Rangers.
The 29-year-old hit .234 with 25 homers and 66 RBIs in 123 games last year after missing much of the previous two seasons with injuries.
"I believe he's going to fit into our culture well," Maddon said. "I think he's going to fit into the clubhouse well."
Blalock's minor league deal included a clause allowing him to opt out and seek a job elsewhere if he wasn't on the 25-man roster coming out of spring training. Instead, he accepted an assignment with Durham, where he batted .349 -- tied for second in the International League -- with four homers and 24 RBIs in 26 games.
Burrell spent the first nine seasons of his career with the Phillies. In the four seasons prior to signing with Tampa Bay, he averaged 31 homers and 99 RBIs and seemed like a good fit for a lineup lacking right-handed power hitter.
"The transition from the National to the American League, going from position player to DH is not always that easy," Maddon said.
"The thing about Pat that I respect so much, this guy worked very, very hard" despite a lot of outside criticism. "But I'm always about effort and work, and this guy did that every day. He was the first guy showing up. He was always in the cage, always worked on his defense even though he didn't play out there. He was very supportive among his teammates. It's just unfortunate that it did not work out."