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Rays sign RHP Ernesto Frieri, Designate Sean Rodriguez

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Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

The Rays surprised this afternoon by designating bench stalwart Sean Rodriguez for assignment to clear room for RHP Ernesto Frieri.

Rodriguez was in the last year of his rookie contract and was considered trade bait for the winter. He's been the back up at every position on the field for the Rays, save catcher, since his acquisition from the Angels in the Scott Kazmir trade prior to the 2010 season.

Ernesto Frieri is the reason for the designation, on a major league contract with an $800K base salary, which allows him to earn a total of $3.15 million through performance incentives.

A product of the Padres system, and later the closer for the Angels in 2013, this 29-year old right hander is the answer to the veteran presence the Rays have been looking for in the bullpen.

Frieri was traded mid-season last year to the Pirates for their own down-on-his-luck closer Jason Grilli. Frieri topped out his save count at 37 in 2013, but managed only 11 for the Angels last season before he was sent off.

In his excellent 2013 campaign, Frieri struck out 33.6% of batters faced. In 2014 that dipped to 26% as a problem with the longball skyrocketed his ERA to a gaudy 7.34. He would be designated for assignment by the Pirates before the season's end.

Will Jim Hickey be able to turn The Big Ern into the next Fernando Rodney?