Tampa Bay Rays: Gillaspie Invited to Spring Training


Tampa Bay Rays minor league player of the year among 18 invited to spring training which include seven signed to minor league contracts.

The Tampa Bay Rays added some much needed depth as they signed seven players to minor league deals and also invited 11 others including Minor League Player of the Year Casey Gillaspie to spring training.

Joining Gillaspie are minor league right-handed pitchers Jeff Ames and Andrew Kittredge, catchers Nick Ciuffo and Jonah Heim. As well,  first basemen Dalton Kelly, first baseman/outfielder Jake Bauers, infielder Jake Hager, infielder/outfielder Patrick Leonard and outfielders Johnny Field and Dayron Varona.

Among the seven signed were pitchers Dana Eveland, Justin Marks, both of whom spent time with the Rays during the 2016 season, Diego Moreno and Neil Wagner as well catcher Michael McKenry, infielder/outfielder Ryan Brett and outfielder Shane Peterson.

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Eveland was with the Tampa Bay Rays organization throughout last season, making the 25-man roster out of spring training as a non-roster invite. In three different stints with the team covering 33 appearances, Eveland went 0-1 with a 9.00 ERA. He was outrighted after the season to free up space on the 40-man roster. A veteran of 11 seasons, Eveland has pitched for 10 different organizations.

Justin Marks made his mark with Triple-A Durham when he threw a 9-inning no-hitter against Triple-A Syracuse (Nationals affiliate) during the 2016 season. Overall, on the season he went 7-11 with a 3.86 ERA in 25 appearances, of which 23 were starts.

Selected by the Tampa Bay Rays during September callups from Durham, Marks made his Rays debut on September 6 making this his first major league appearance since April 20, 2014 against the Twins as a member of the Kansas City Royals. Like Eveland, Marks was outrighted off the 40-man roster following the season and re-signed to a minor league deal on December 1.

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Drafted by the Rays in third round of the 2010 Draft, Ryan Brett made his major league debut with the Rays in 2015, appearing in three games. On the shelf for the entire 2016 season due to Tommy John surgery, the Tampa Bay Rays non-tendered Brett following the season and re-signed him on December 6. He is a career .289/.343/.421 (522-for-1,807) hitter across six minor league seasons.

Entering his third season with the Tampa Bay Rays organization, Neil Wagner returned from Tommy John surgery appearing in 42 games between Class-A Charlotte and Triple-A Durham in 2016, going 1-2 with a 4.44 ERA.

Cleveland drafted Wagner in the 21st round of the 2005 Draft, making his major league debut in 2011 with Oakland. Wagner last pitched in the majors in 2014 with Toronto. He owns a 2-4 record with a 4.92 ERA over parts of three seasons with Oakland and Toronto.

Joining the Tampa Bay Rays organization for the first time following three years with the New York Yankees, Diego Moreno made his major league debut in 2015 appearing in four games for the Yankees before an elbow injury ended his season. Between Double-A Trenton and Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre in 2016, Moreno went 7-1 with a 4.82 ERA in 32 appearances (two starts).

During the 2016 season, Michael McKenry spent time with the St. Louis Cardinals, Atlanta Braves, Texas Rangers and Milwaukee Brewers organizations, batting a combined .285/.426/.500 (57-for-200) with seven home runs and 38 RBI with their Triple-A affiliates. He has major league experience with the Cardinals (2016), Colorado Rockies (2010, 2014-15) and Pittsburgh Pirates (2011-2013).

According to Jon Heyman of FanRag via Twitter, McKenry will receive $900K if he is in the Majors, plus a possible $475K in incentives. He has opt-outs on March 30 and June 1.

In 2016, Peterson appeared in 15 games with Triple-A Colorado Springs (Brewers) but missed the majority of the season due to a pair of stints on the disabled list. Peterson is a career .255/.322/.346 hitter in 95 career games with the Brewers (2015) and Athletics (2013).

Next: Tampa Bay Rays: 2016 the Good, the Bad and the Ugly

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Peterson was selected by St. Louis in the second round of the 2008 June Draft and was part of a four-player trade involving Matt Holliday in July 2009.