Haynes hustles to join the Rays
Outfielder takes red-eye hours after being claimed from Angels
SARASOTA, Fla. -- Joe Maddon talked on the telephone Friday night to Nathan Haynes.
The Rays manager made the call around 6 p.m. ET while driving home from his club's final game at Progress Energy Park. Haynes was in Los Angeles when he answered the call.
"Joe called me last night so I wouldn't have to sleep on it," Haynes said.
Haynes didn't sleep on it; he flew instead. Imagine the look on Maddon's face when he found Haynes sitting in the Rays' clubhouse inside Tropicana Field when he walked in around 7 a.m. Saturday.
"Just shows how much he wanted to be here," Maddon said.
Haynes, 28, was claimed off waivers from the Angels on Friday afternoon, then took the red-eye from LAX to Tampa.
"Obviously, to be in the big leagues is a big opportunity," said Haynes, offering a disclaimer to reporters that what he said might not make sense due to his lack of sleep.
Haynes made his Major League debut in 2007 with the Angels, hitting .267 in 40 games; his contract was purchased May 28 from Triple-A Salt Lake and he remained in the Major Leagues the remainder of the season.
"Nathan's a guy that we like," said Andrew Friedman, the Rays' executive vice president of baseball operations. "Joe has some history with him. We like his ability to play all three of the outfield spots, how he handles the bat and his foot speed."
Haynes played all three outfield positions for the Angels and was named their organizational player of the month in April. At the time of his recall, he was hitting .386 with four home runs with Salt Lake and was leading the Pacific Coast League in average, hits, triples and on-base percentage (.466).
This spring, Haynes hit .265 (9-for-34) with four stolen bases in 19 Cactus League games for the Angels. He bats and fields left-handed and is a career .281 hitter, with 254 stolen bases over parts of 11 Minor League seasons with the A's, Giants and Angels organizations. He was the 32nd overall player selected in the 1997 First-Year Player Draft by the Athletics.
The Angels have a deep outfield with Vladimir Guerrero, Garret Anderson, Gary Matthews, Torii Hunter and Reggie Willets, which left little wiggle room for Haynes.
Haynes' equipment remained with the Angels in San Diego while he traveled east to join the Rays. But while his equipment was missing, he already had housing plans thanks to former Angels teammate and friend Chone Figgins, who lives in Brandon, Fla., just outside the Tampa city limits.
Figgins "is my best friend," Haynes said. "I'm going to be staying out at his place while I'm here."
"Nate can play," Figgins told MLB.com. "I hope he gets his chance to show what he can do, because he's a talented player with a lot of knowledge -- and he's tough.
"He helped me tremendously when I was struggling early last year. He knows my stroke as well as I do, and he was able to point things out to me from the dugout during games. Nate knows the game, and he knows how to play. I hope this works out for him."
Angels manager Mike Scioscia acknowledged to MLB.com Haynes' value as a backup outfielder during the club's ride to the 2007 American League West title.
"Nate has been a quality individual and a terrific player in his role for us," Scioscia said. "It was just a matter of numbers here. We really wish him the best. He has a lot of skills, and he helped us any time we needed him."
Bill Chastain is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.