Hideki Matsui expected to sign with Rays

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Hideki Matsui went unsigned this offseason and was rarely even linked to any teams, but now Jack Curry of YES Network reports that 38-year-old “is expected to soon sign a minor-league deal” with the Rays.

It’s an odd fit, as Tampa Bay has gotten very good production from Luke Scott as their primary designated hitter and the defense-focused Rays seem unlikely to use Matsui in the outfield even if his bad knees would allow it physically.

From the Rays’ point of view it’s a no-risk flier and while Matsui didn’t hit much for the A’s last season–posting a career-low .696 OPS–that was the first time he’d failed to top a .775 OPS and he did bat .274 with 21 homers and an .820 OPS in 145 games for the Angels in 2010.

Matsui will likely spend some time at Triple-A while the Rays decide if they need an extra bat.

Martin Maldonado and Willson Contreras say they’re willing to pay fines rather than follow new mound visit rule

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On Monday, Major League Baseball announced some changes aimed at improving the game’s pace of play, something that has been a pet cause for commissioner Rob Manfred. Among the changes was a limit on mound visits whether from managers and coaches, the catcher, or other defenders. Each team will have six non-pitching change mound visits per game and one additional visit each inning in extra innings. Craig wrote more in depth on the changes here if you happened to miss it.

Angels catcher Martin Maldonado says he is going to do what’s necessary to stay on the same page with his pitchers. Via Jeff Fletcher of the Orange County Register, Maldonado said, “If the game is on the line, I’m going to go out there. If we’re at six [visits], and it’s going to be the seventh, I’m going to go out there, even if I have to pay a fine. I’m there for the pitchers.”

Cubs catcher Willson Contreras said as much on Tuesday. Per Josh Frydman of WGN News, Contreras said, “What about if you have a tight game and you have to go out there? They can’t say anything about that, that’s my team and we just care about wins. If they’re going to fine me about number seven mound visit, I’ll pay the price.”

Exhibition games haven’t even started yet, but two notable backstops — the lesser-known Maldonado won a Gold Glove last year — are clearly not happy with the rule change. As Craig alluded to in his article yesterday, arguments between catchers and umpires (and, subsequently, managers and umpires) are probably going to become more frequent, which would likely end up nullifying any pace of play improvements.

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Update (4:43 PM ET): In response to this, Manfred said that if a catcher or coach made a seventh mound visit, there would have to be a pitching change (via Fletcher). However, chief baseball officer Joe Torre said (via SB Nation’s Eric Stephen) that the seventh visit cannot trigger a pitching change. The umpire would simply have to prevent the seventh mound visit.