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Rays

Rays add infield depth, sign Keppinger to 1-year deal

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Published:   |   Updated: March 19, 2013 at 12:39 PM
ST. PETERSBURG -

The Rays signed veteran infielder Jeff Keppinger today to a one-year, $1.525 million deal with incentives.

Keppinger, 31, who made $2.3 million in 2011 while splitting time between Houston and San Francisco, will give the Rays another right-handed bat as well as depth around the infield. He has played more than 100 games at second base, shortstop and third base during his seven-year career. He also has seen time at first base and all three outfield positions.

His experience – albeit not much – in the outfield will create options for Joe Maddon as Maddon goes to his bench during the late innings.

"Jeff is a good player who fits our club well," Rays executive vice president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman said.  "He is a tough out, especially against left-handers, and his contact skills bring a useful dimension to our roster. We also value his defensive versatility, which will allow him to make an impact in many different ways."

Keppinger is a career .324 hitter vs. lefties with a .371 on-base percentage and a .481 slugging percentage. He has struck out only 142 times in 2,287 career plate appearances, averaging the second most plate appearances per strikeout (16.1) among active players (minimum. 2,000 plate appearances) behind Juan Pierre.

He played second base for both teams last season during an injury-plagued year. Keppinger missed the first 50 games of the season for the Astros while recovering from surgery on his left foot. He also missed time with the Giants after injuring his right wrist.

Rays fans might recall Keppinger as a tough out during the Rays three-game sweep last June in Houston. Keppinger was 5-for-11 with a double, home run and two RBI during the three games, getting those hits in his last five at-bats.


rmooney@tampatrib.com (813) 259-7227

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