Rays add another interesting reliever in Benoit

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Tampa Bay made a nice low-cost pickup this afternoon, signing Joaquin Benoit to a minor-league contract with an invite to spring training.
It remains to be seen if Benoit can rediscover his old stuff after missing part of 2008 and all of 2009 following shoulder surgery, but prior to the injury he was a reliable setup man for the Rangers, posting a 3.80 ERA with 250 strikeouts versus just 205 hits allowed in 248.2 innings from 2005-2007.
As noted when news of his comeback first surfaced last week, during that three-year span the only relievers to toss 200-plus innings with a lower opponents’ batting average than Benoit were Joe Nathan, Francisco Rodriguez, Billy Wagner, J.J. Putz, Brian Fuentes, Scot Shields, Rafael Betancourt, and Mariano Rivera.
Rafael Soriano was acquired to be the Rays’ closer and his primary setup men figure to be J.P. Howell, Grant Balfour, and Dan Wheeler, but Benoit could provide some nice bullpen depth as a middle-relief option and the price was certainly right. Lots of injury prone guys in that mix, but if everyone stays healthy the Rays could be dominant in the late innings.

Watch: Shohei Ohtani strikes out his first spring training batter

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Sure, spring training games don’t count toward anything “real,” but that doesn’t mean we can’t enjoy Angels’ star pitcher/hitter Shohei Ohtani mowing down his first big league competitors.

On Saturday, Ohtani took the mound against the Brewers for his first official outing in an Angels uniform. After allowing a leadoff double to Jonathan Villar, the 23-year-old righty settled down and issued a three-pitch strikeout to Nate Orf, his first of the spring.

It wasn’t the cleanest inning for the right-hander: the Brewers plated their first run on a walk, wild pitch and subsequent throwing error by catcher Martin Maldonado. Ohtani didn’t let things unravel further, however, and induced a pop-up for the second out before catching Brett Phillips looking on a called strike three to end the inning.

While the two-way phenom only lasted another two batters (a Keon Broxton dinger finished him off in the second), he’s already started to look like a formidable presence on the mound. Time will tell whether he can deliver at the plate as well — rumor has it he could feature in the Angels’ lineup as soon as Monday.