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Rays reel in Adam Kennedy

Posted Feb 17, 2009 by Marc Lancaster

Updated Feb 17, 2009 at 09:21 PM

PORT CHARLOTTE—The Rays made their latest low-risk, potentially high impact acquisition tonight, agreeing to terms with veteran second baseman Adam Kennedy to a minor-league contract.

The Cardinals surprisingly released Kennedy last week after deciding he wouldn’t start for them, putting an experienced player who is best known for his glove but also hit .280 last year on the open market. Because the Cardinals are on the hook for the majority of Kennedy’s $4 million salary this season, the Rays saw no reason not to bring him in and see what happens.

“We talk a lot about depth, and I think this move fits perfectly in line with that,” said Rays executive vice president Andrew Friedman. “He’s a tremendous defender, he does a lot of things well, and we’re anxious to watch him play on a daily basis.”

Should Kennedy make the roster, the Rays would be responsible for only $400,000 of his total salary this year, the final season in a three-year contract. At the moment, there is no apparent spot for Kennedy on the Rays’ Opening Day roster, with Akinori Iwamura locked in at second base and Ben Zobrist and Willy Aybar essentially assured spots on the bench.

Of course, the same was said of Carlos Pena in 2007 until a late injury to Greg Norton led to one of the best individual seasons in team history.

“Right now, he’s on the outside looking in,” Friedman said of Kennedy. “I think it would take an injury [for him to make the Opening Day roster] at this point, but you never know.”

Reports out of St. Louis last weeks suggested Kennedy’s exit was engineered by Manager Tony La Russa, who benched the 33-year-old last season and didn’t want him as the Cardinals’ regular season baseman this season.
Tension with the manager shouldn’t be a problem for Kennedy with the Rays. Joe Maddon knows him well after the two spent six seasons together with the Angels and gave him positive reviews.

“I don’t know what happened in St. Louis,” Friedman said, “but Joe’s got a history with him and speaks extremely highly of him as a teammate and as a competitor and feels like he’ll add a lot to our group in the clubhouse.”

Kennedy was flying to Florida from California on tonight and was expected to be in camp tomorrow. 

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