Mike Hampton came back from his latest arm surgery to make 10 appearances as a left-handed specialist for the Diamondbacks in September and today Arizona re-signed him to a minor-league contract with an invitation to spring training.
Nick Piecoro of the Arizona Republic reports that Hampton “will compete for a job coming out of the bullpen” at age 38, after undergoing surgery to repair labrum and rotator cuff damage in his shoulder about 14 months ago.
Hampton hasn’t been healthy and effective in the same season since way back in 2004, throwing a grand total of 264 innings in the six years since then.
The Tampa Bay Rays have signed lefty swingman Ryan Merritt to a minor league contract. Nah, it’s not a big signing but we’ll take anything today.
Merritt, who has spent his entire career in the Indians organization, spent the entire 2018 season at Triple-A Columbus. It wasn’t a bad year for him — he posted a 3.79 ERA and a 52/2 K/BB ratio in 13 starts and two relief appearances covering 71.1 innings — but the Tribe just couldn’t find a role for him at the big league level. He has shown in the past, however, that he can hack it in the bigs, having posted a 1.71 ERA in 31.2 innings with the Indians between 2016-2017.
His thing is that he simply doesn’t strike guys out at anything approaching a typical clip for a big leaguer: 3.7 per nine innings in his small sample of major league outings and 6.3 Ks per nine innings in the minors. Which, while it may not prevent him from having success at the big league level, is likely a reason for the limited number of chances he’s been given.
The Rays are probably the best place he could go, frankly. They’ve shown themselves willing to utilize guys in unique ways and are more likely than most teams to find places to spot a lefty control specialist who has shown he can both start and come out of the pen.