Per the Rays.
As we creep towards pitchers and catchers reporting we are expecting more and more new faces to pop up around these parts. Freezo spoke about Heath Phillips this morning and now we have right handed reliever Mike Ekstrom added to the mix.
Ekstrom, 26, was a 12th round selection in the 2004 draft by the San Diego Padres. He was designated for assignment last week to make room for Padres' new addition Jon Garland. He made his major league debut in September 2008 and pitched 18.1 innings out of the Padres' pen in 2009.
Drafted as a starter, he was moved to the bullpen during the 2008 season. As mentioned he does have some brief MLB experience, but has been largely unimpressive in those 28 innings. His career ERA is 6.75 and his FIP is 5.36, but don't pay much attention to this small sample size. In his brief big league career he has been a victim of a higher than normal BABIP (.357) and a completely unsustainable HR/FB of 17.2%. Given some time to regress, those number should come down quite a bit. In fact his 2009 xFIP is an encouraging 3.99.
Looking at his minor league numbers, you can see why the Rays are taking a shot on him. In 62.1 innings last season he had a 3.06 FIP at Triple-A and he gets ground balls. He got nearly 60% groundballs while in Portland and nearly 50% in his time with the Padres. Another fastball/slider reliever, Ekstrom averages around ~91-92 MPH on his fastball. His strikeout rates have jumped around from the mid six range all the way to 9.33 for the Pads last year. I'm guessing a K/9 of 6.5 is more accurate. In the minors, his walk rates remained steadily under three per nine.
At first glance he seems to be another arm to bring to camp and then store down in Durham. As is the case with all these fungible relievers he could be something or he could be nothing. However, it's worth a shot.