The Rays have designated designated hitter Pat Burrell for assignment in order to make room for Hank Blalock, according to the Tampa Tribune.
Burrell, 33, has been a tremendous failure since signing a two-year, $16 million contract with the club in January of 2009, posting a pathetic .218/.311/.361 batting line and just 16 homers over 572 plate appearances. He was batting 202/.292/.333 with two homers and 13 RBI over his first 84 at-bats this season.
The Rays did their best to trade Burrell during the offseason, including protracted talks with the Cubs involving Milton Bradley, however a trade never materialized. Now they’ll pay him $9 million this season just to go away.
Blalock, 29, was batting .349/.405/.505 with four home runs and 24 RBI with Triple-A Durham. Earlier this week, his agent Scott Boras told Marc Topkin of the St. Petersburg Times that his client planned to use an opt-clause in his contract if he wasn’t promoted to the major league roster. Now that Burrell is out of the way, Blalock figures to be the primary designated hitter and backup first baseman for the struggling Carlos Pena.
Long-time rotation mainstay Tom Koehler was optioned to Triple-A New Orleans on Monday and reliever Hunter Cervenka was recalled, the Marlins announced.
Koehler, 31, made 131 starts out of the Marlins’ rotation over the last five years, but his 12 this season have not been good, so the club hopes he can figure things out with a stint in the minors. He’s carrying a 7.92 ERA with a 44/29 K/BB ratio in 55 2/3 innings. Koehler battled bursitis in his right shoulder in May and June, which may partially explain his struggles.
Cervenka, 27, posted a 4.50 ERA with a 34/21 K/BB ratio in 34 innings of relief with New Orleans. He hasn’t pitched in the majors yet this season, but compiled a 3.53 ERA over 43 1/3 innings in the bigs last year in the Marlins’ bullpen.
At the trade deadline, relief pitching is the name of the game and one of the names clearly available is Pat Neshek. Today Mark Feinsand of MLB.com reports that the Nationals, Dodgers, and Red Sox are among the clubs who are closely scouting the Phillies reliever. Last week Ken Rosenthal reported that the Brewers and Rays were involved as well.
Neshek is an impending free agent, so he may come cheaper than Justin Wilson or some of the other bullpen arms available right now. The All-Star is 36 and is posting a fantastic season, featuring a 1.12 ERA and 45/5 K/BB ratio over 40.1 innings this season.