ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- The Tampa Bay Rays have agreed to terms with catcher Michel Hernandez, outfielder Jon Weber, left-handed pitcher Randy Choate, right-handed pitcher Julio DePaula, infielder Ray Olmedo and outfielder Ray Sadler to Minor League contracts. Each player received an invitation to Major League Spring Training.
Hernandez, 30, was a member of the Rays postseason roster through all three rounds in 2008. The Rays acquired the 11-year Minor League veteran from the Pittsburgh Pirates for cash considerations on August 31, and he was assigned to Durham's (AAA) postseason roster. Hernandez hit .266 (67-252) in 76 games with Indianapolis (AAA) in 2008. The Cuba native was called up to the Majors September 9 when catcher Shawn Riggans underwent knee surgery. He played in five games for the Rays, his first big league action since 2003 with the New York Yankees.
Weber, who turns 31 this month, was invited to Major League camp by the Rays in 2008 and spent the entire season with Durham. The left-handed hitter batted .265 (103-389) for the Bulls with 13 homers, 51 RBI, 24 doubles, and 11 stolen bases. Following the season, he played for Venados de Mazatlan of the Mexican Winter League. Weber has played 10 seasons professionally, including parts of four years in independent leagues.
Choate, 33, pitched for Nashville (AAA) last season in the Milwaukee Brewers organization. Over the winter, he pitched for Aguilas Cibaenas of the Dominican Winter League. The southpaw has spent parts of eight seasons in the Majors with the Yankees (2000-03) and Arizona Diamondbacks (2004-07) and pitched in two postseasons (2000-01) for New York. Over 196 career Major League outings he is 5-7 with a 4.64 ERA. Choate is a Tampa resident and was selected by the Yankees out of Florida State in the fifth round of the 1997 June draft.
DePaula, 26, joins the Rays after nine years in the Minnesota Twins organization. He appeared in 51 games, including five starts, for Rochester (AAA) in 2008. Following the season, he pitched for Gigantes del Cibao of the DWL. DePaula reached the Majors in 2007 and made 16 appearances over two stints in the Twins bullpen. In the Minors, he owns a 48-35 career record with a 3.16 ERA.
Olmedo, 27, has played parts of five years in the Majors with the Cincinnati Reds (2003-06) and Toronto Blue Jays (2007). In 2008 he was the starting shortstop for Columbus (AAA), then a Washington Nationals affiliate, and hit .252 (89-353) with four homers and 10 stolen bases. The Aragua, Venezuela, native has played for Bravos de Margarita of the Venezuelan Winter League in each of the last two offseasons.
Sadler, 28, split the 2008 campaign between Round Rock (AAA) and Corpus Christi (AA) in the Houston Astros system. The right-handed hitter combined to bat .272 (123-452) with 25 homers, 78 RBI and a .527 slugging pct. Following the season, he played for Caribes de Anzoategui of the VWL. Sadler played three games with Pittsburgh in 2005, his only action in the Majors. Over nine Minor League seasons, he has tallied 131 homers and 128 steals.
We already told you about Weber, Olmedo, and Sadler. Hernandez is an insurance policy who should join Jaso in AAA. Choate and DePaula add to the bullpen possibilities and are also insurance at Durham in case of an injury in the big leagues.