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Wheeler, one of the reliable pieces Joe Maddon employed in Tampa Bay for the past three years who is averaging 68 appearances per season, is leaving the Rays to return to his native New England.
Wheeler, a native of Warwick, R.I. (he was selected by the Rays out of Pilgrim High School in the 34th round of the 1997 draft), signed a one-year deal with an option for a second year that vests if he makes 65 appearances.
Last season, Wheeler was 2-4 with a 3.35 ERA for the Rays. He pitched in the eighth inning in the majority of his 64 appearances last season, though he also pitched 22 times in the sixth and seventh innings. He is expected to be used more as a sixth- and seventh-inning man by the Red Sox.
Wheeler also pitched parts of two seasons with the Mets and 3½ seasons with Houston. He turned 33 on Dec. 10.Gordon Edes is ESPNBoston.com's Red Sox reporter. He has covered the Red Sox for 12 years and has reported on baseball for 25 years. Ask a question for his next mailbag here.