Mike Fontenot, who was released by the Phillies in August, has agreed to a minor-league contract with the Rays.
Once upon a time Fontenot looked like a solid regular, but his stock has dipped dramatically in recent years. He got a late start in the majors and then hit .291 with an .826 OPS in 205 games through his first two seasons for the Cubs, but in four years since then he’s hit just .252 with a .686 OPS in 370 games.
He has experience at second base, third base, and shortstop, but at age 32 he’ll have to hit more to have any sort of significant big-league value. Tampa Bay also re-signed outfielder Rich Thompson to a minor-league deal and odds are he’ll be teammates with Fontenot at Triple-A.
The Rays have been without their best hitter in Evan Longoria for almost two months now. Now they’re going to be without their second-best for at least two weeks.
Matt Joyce, who leads the team in average, homers and RBI this season, was placed on the disabled list due to his back injury. He last played in Tuesday’s game against the Rays.
The Joyce move was one of six made by the Rays today. The team also optioned outfielder Rich Thompson to Triple-A and designated infielder Drew Sutton for assignment.
Added to the roster were infielders Brooks Conrad and Jeff Keppinger and reliever Brandon Gomes. Conrad was claimed off waivers from the Brewers on Thursday, while Keppinger had been on the DL for the last month due to a broken toe.
Gomes was needed to help out in the pen. With Joel Peralta dropping his appeal Friday, the Rays will play with a 24-man roster for the next eight days.
It certainly won’t be easy going for the Rays offense with both Joyce and Longoria out. Ben Zobrist figures to get most of his time in the outfield while Joyce is sidelined, leaving the Rays to pick between Keppinger, Conrad, Elliot Johnson, Sean Rodriguez and Will Rhymes for three infield spots every night.
Tampa Bay activated Desmond Jennings from the disabled list after the speedy left fielder missed the past four weeks with a knee injury.
Jennings went just 3-for-15 (.200) with zero walks and one double on a brief minor-league rehab assignment.
Hideki Matsui has started four of the past five games in left field, so with Jennings back and likely to play every day again it’ll be interesting to see what kind of role the Rays have for Matsui.
Career minor leaguer Rich Thompson, who got his first big-league hit at age 33, was sent back to Triple-A to make room for Jennings’ return.