By STEVE WISEMAN
DURHAM — On the day when the Durham Bulls ended a near historic losing streak, they also got good news about the future.
Former All-Star outfielder/designated hitter Hideki Matsui signed a minor-league contract with the Tampa Bay Rays and is expected to join the Bulls sometime this month.
“Over the past two decades, Hideki has been one of the most consistently productive hitters in the world,” Rays executive VP Andrew Friedman said in a statement. “We are happy to add his ability, approach and professionalism to our organization.”
Matsui, who will be 38 in June, has played nine seasons in the majors, including seven with the New York Yankees and one each with the Los Angeles Angels and Oakland A’s. He has compiled a .285 batting average with 173 home runs and 753 RBIs.
Before his Major League career, he was a nine-time All-Star in Japan, hitting .304 with 332 home runs and 889 RBI.
Matsui will report to Tampa Bay’s extended spring training camp in Port Charlotte, Fla., this week.
“He’s a wonderful weapon for us to have,” Tampa Bay Rays manager Joe Maddon told reporters in Tampa on Monday. “I can’t be very specific with you because I’m not sure how this is going to all play out. All I can tell you very specifically is I really love the idea of him being with us in this organization and getting him ready and seeing how this all plays out.”
After leading the Bulls to a 1-0 win over Indianapolis on Monday that halted a 13-game losing streak, Manager Charlie Montoyo said he would welcome Matsui if the Rays send him to Durham.
“I’ve heard he’s a great guy and he’s trying to make a comeback,” Montoyo said. “He’s got to go to extended (spring training) and get it going first.”
Matsui wore No. 55 at his previous stops. In Tampa on Monday, more than 20 members of the Japanese media immediately surrounded the Tampa Bay player who currently wears that uniform number, former Bulls pitcher Matt Moore.
When asked if he would give it up for Matsui, Moore politely said he hadn’t thought about it yet.
The Bulls placed outfielder Brandon Guyer on the disabled list Monday, retroactive to this past Friday. Guyer suffered a sprained left ankle during a game in Norfolk. Montoyo said the roster move had to made because Guyer’s ankle was too sore for him to play.
“It was lingering,” Montoyo said.
Torres to bullpen
Struggling left-handed pitcher Alex Torres will pitch out of the bullpen for the Bulls and should be available for work beginning with tonight’s game with Louisville.
Torres, 24, is 1-3 with a 10.38 ERA in five starts for the Bulls this season. He failed to make it out of the second inning in a 13-2 loss to Indianapolis on Friday night.
Torres is on Tampa Bay’s 40-man roster and appeared in four games for the Rays a year ago. Montoyo said the move is designed to allow Torres to regain his form.
“He needs a breather,” Montoyo said. “Coming out the bullpen with less pressure, hopefully he can get it back. We’re not saying we’re giving up on him. He needs to relax.
“He’s not the first guy to go through that.”
Article source: HeraldSun - Durham Bulls