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Six key Spring Training invitations for 2019 Rays

My gawd, that’s Emilio Bonifacio’s music!

MLB: Atlanta Braves at Pittsburgh Pirates Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

The Tampa Bay Rays have agreed to terms with five players on minor league contracts with an invitation to major league spring training: infielder Emilio Bonifacio, right-handed pitcher Ricardo Pinto, right-handed pitcher Casey Sadler, right-handed pitcher Luis Santos and right-handed pitcher Cole Sulser.

UTIL Emilio Bonifacio, 33, joins the Rays after a strong showing with Long Island in the Independent League before signing with the Brewers Triple-A squad in August of 2018.

The true utility man is a career .256/.313/.333 (669-for-2,610) hitter with 13 home runs, 165 RBI and 166 stolen bases over parts of 11 seasons in the majors with the Diamondbacks (2007-08), Nationals (2008), Marlins (2009-12), Blue Jays (2013), Royals (2013), Cubs (2014), Braves (2014, White Sox (2015), and Braves again (2016-17), and has experience everywhere but first base and catcher.

This offseason, Bonifacio played for the Tigres del Licey in the Dominican Winter League, batting .241/.299/.471 (21-for-87) with two home runs and 11 RBI in 26 games.

RHP Ryan Merritt, 27, was previously profiled here:

A change-up extraordinaire, Merritt was drafted by the Cleveland Indians in the 16th round of the 2011 draft. A mainstay in the back-end of their top-30 prospect list, Merritt made his MLB debut in 2016 and pitched pretty well in extremely small sample sizes during a couple of stints with Cleveland.

The Indians shocked the baseball world when they pegged him as the game 5 starting pitcher in the 2016 ALCS. Merritt rewarded Cleveland by delivering 4 1⁄3 scoreless innings as they advanced to the World Series.

RHP Ricardo Pinto, 25, was the Philadelphia Phillies minor league pitcher of the year in 2015 who pitched in the Futures Game the following season. He made his major league debut in 2017, allowing 26 earned runs in 29.2 IP, and was traded to the White Sox for international bonus pool money the following off-season. Chicago tried Pinto as a starter and reliever across the minors in 2018.

Still in development, Pinto is short guy with plane in his arm angle, featuring a mid 90’s fastball and good arm action with some control. Thus far he’s failed to develop proper secondary pitch. The Rays will see what they can unlock from the former well regarded prospect.

RHP Casey Sadler, 28, experienced a worst case scenario when you hear the words “forearm tightness” after graduating to the Pirates in 2014 -15. His recovery progressed well enough for Sadler to get a two-day look in the majors in 2018 for Pittsburgh, but otherwise pitched in Triple-A with a 3.39 ERA (77.0-IP, 29-ER) in 27 apps (eight starts).

Following the season, Sadler pitched for the Tigres del Licey in the Dominican Winter League, going 0-1 with a 3.18 ERA (11.1-IP, 4-ER) in three starts.. He has a sinker and a slider that work well against the same handed batter.

Sadler announced he was signing with the Rays last month with this adorable photo:

RHP Luis Santos, 27, has yet to break into the majors despite two attempts with the Blue Jays over the last two seasons. In 2018 he had a 7.20 ERA in 20.0 IP in the majors, but a 2.74 ERA over 42.2 IP in the minors. There’s reason to think there may be more behind the bitter cups of coffee, as Baseball Prospectus assigned that 7.20 ERA performance an 88 DRA-.

Interestingly, for a fifth consecutive offseason, Santos played for the Toros del Este in the Dominican Winter League, pitching to a 2.08 ERA (13-IP, 1-ER) in 15 apps. He was originally signed by the Pirates as a free agent in August 2011 out of the Dominican, and cleared waivers while with Toronto in August 2018.

RHP Cole Sulser, 28, was already in the Rays system. He started the 2018 season in Double-A for the Indians, where he struck out more than half of the 30 batters he faced. He got promoted to Triple-A and struck out 35.8% of the next 2018 hitters they threw his way. The Rays picked up his rights alongside Yandy Diaz in the Jake Bauers trade.

Basically, he’s a right handed Colin Poche, speaking of which...

We’ll put it on the site when it’s official.