Dirk Hayhurst to play ball in Italy this year

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Dirk Hayhurst, author of “The Bullpen Gospels” and the upcoming “Out of my League,” is a personal favorite of mine. Yes, because of the books, but also because he lives in Ohio and I got to meet him last fall and I found that he is just as neat a guy in person as he is in print and on Twitter and stuff.

Anyone who has paid attention to his career since his first book came out knows that, after 25 major league games in 2008-09, he was first beset with injury and then, last year, was beset with being part of the Tampa Bay Rays organization which, unfortunately for Hayhurst, had way damn too many good pitchers.

It might be easy to get discouraged if you’re a guy like Hayhurst, but he’s not doing that.  No, rather than get upset at a system that is, by design, almost impossible to crack, he has decided to view his baseball career as an opportunity to experience neat stuff.  He just announced on Twitter that he’ll be playing baseball in Italy in 2012.

He was already considering this possibility when I met him in September, and what he told me about it made it sound pretty sweet. It’s a relatively short season with games mostly on weekends, allowing players a lot of time to travel around and see the sights.  He’s taking his wife with him, so he won’t be stuck in some minor league town talking to her on the phone all the time.  And, of course, Italy is way cool.

Bonus: I’m guessing the Italian league won’t get nearly as bent out of shape at Hayhurst for blogging about what goes on inside their clubhouses as U.S. baseball does, so we can probably assume that he’ll be writing an awful lot about his experiences.  Which, given that his writing — sorry Dirk — has been more successful than his baseball career in many respects, is probably a good thing for him as he thinks about what the rest of his playing days and then the rest of his life hold in store for him.

Good luck, Dirk.  I know it will be hard to leave magical, beautiful Ohio for boring old Italy for the rest of the year, but I’m sure you’ll somehow find a way to make it work.

Rays’ Díaz gets $24 million, three-year deal, avoids arbitration

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ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. – Tampa Bay Rays infielder Yandy Díaz agreed to a $24 million, three-year contract on Tuesday that avoided a salary arbitration hearing.

Díaz’s agreement could be worth $36 million over four seasons.

The 31-year old will receive $6 million this season, $8 million in 2024 and $10 million for 2025. The 2026 club is $12 million with no buyout. There is a $1 million assignment bonus that would be payable by receiving team.

Díaz has spent parts of six seasons in the majors with Cleveland (2017-18) and Tampa Bay (2019-22). He has a career average of .278 with 39 home runs and 198 RBIs.

Acquired by the Rays in a three-team trade on Dec. 13, 2018, Díaz hit .296 with nine homers and 57 RBIs in 137 games last season, He career highs with 71 runs, 140 hits, 33 doubles, and 78 walks.

Díaz was the third Rays’ arbitration-eligible player to reach a deal.

Reliever Pete Fairbanks agreed Friday to a $12 million, three-year contract that could be worth up to $24.6 million over four seasons. The 29-year-old right-hander was 0-0 with a 1.13 ERA in 24 appearances last year after beginning the season on the 60-day injured list with a right lat strain.

Left-hander Jeffrey Springs also agreed last week to a $31 million, four-year contract that could be worth $65.75 million over five seasons.

The 30-year-old began last season in the bullpen and transitioned to the starting rotation in May and finished 9-5 with a 2.46 ERA in 33 appearances, including 25 starts.

Tampa Bay remains scheduled for hearings with right-handers Jason Adam and Ryan Thompson, left-hander Colin Poche, and outfielder Harold Ramírez.