Four Minor Leaguers sign with Mariners
Group includes infielder Rodriguez, knuckleballer Haeger
SEATTLE -- Four players with Major League experience, including veteran utility infielder Luis Rodriguez, signed with the Mariners as Minor League free agents on Wednesday.
Mariners general manager Jack Zduriencik announced that Rodriguez and three pitchers -- left-hander Fabio Castro and right-handers Charlie Haeger and Chris Smith -- agreed to Minor League contracts and will be invited to Major League Spring Training in February in Peoria, Ariz.
The Mariners typically sign about 20 Minor League free agents each season and have nine under contract so far for next year, having announced veteran reliever Justin Miller and former Padres infielder Sean Kazmar last week and re-signing their own pitchers Chris Seddon and Yusmeiro Petit and outfielder Mike Wilson on Tuesday.
Rodriguez, 30, is the most experienced of the new additions. He has played in 363 Major League games with the Twins (2005-07) and Padres (2008-09) with a career .243 batting average. The switch-hitter batted .293 with 16 home runs and 56 RBIs in 94 games last year for the Charlotte Knights, the White Sox's Triple-A club.
The native of Venezuela has started at every infield position (78 games at shortstop, 69 games at second base, 64 games at third base and one game at first). He last played in the Majors in 2009, when he appeared in 93 games for the Padres while batting .202. He hit .287 in 202 at-bats with the Padres in 2008.
Haeger, 27, is a knuckleballer who made the Dodgers' Opening Day roster this past season and struck out 12 batters in six innings in his April 11 debut against the Marlins. That was the most strikeouts by a Dodgers pitcher in his first start of a season since Don Drydsale in 1960.
The Michigan native wound up 0-4 with an 8.40 ERA in nine games, including six starts, with the Dodgers while spending the majority of his season in Triple-A Albuquerque (4-3, 5.70). Haeger has spent parts of five seasons in the Major Leagues with the White Sox (2006-07), Padres (2008) and Dodgers (2009-10) with a career mark of 2-7 with a 6.40 ERA.
Castro, 25, has pitched in 30 big league games with the Rangers (2006) and Phillies (2006-07), going 0-1 with a 3.30 ERA. The 5-foot-7 lefty spent all of last season with Pawtucket, the Red Sox's Triple-A affiliate, and was 7-9 with a 4.93 ERA in 31 games, including 15 starts.
Castro is pitching in the Dominican Winter League, where he is 3-1 with a 1.61 ERA in five starts for the Gigantes.
Smith, 29, has spent time in the Major Leagues in the past three seasons with the Red Sox (2008) and Brewers (2009-10), putting up a 1-0 record and 5.19 ERA in 50 relief appearances. His best year was '09 in Milwaukee when he posted a 4.11 ERA in 35 outings while holding opponents to a .232 batting average.
Smith spent most of last season as the closer for Nashville, the Brewers' Triple-A club, and went 4-3 with a 3.56 ERA while leading the Pacific Coast League with 26 saves. He originally was a fourth-round Draft pick of the Red Sox in 2002 out of the University of California-Riverside.