This is banner hung Monday at the Trop. (Photo Credit: Marc Topkin/Tampa Bay Times)

The Tampa Bay Rays came to terms with a pair of hurlers over the last two days, inking southpaw Dan Runzler and right-handed reliever Evan Scribner to minor league contracts.

Runzler, 32, made it back to the big leagues in 2017 after an extended layoff. Runzler has worked to a 3.89 ERA over 76-1/3 big league innings. The left-hander spent most of his 2017 campaign in the Pirates organization, where he posted a 3.05 ERA over 41-1/3 innings, with a 1.63 K/BB.

Scribner, 32, has been invited to Major League camp as a non-roster invitee, and will receive an $800-thousand base salary if he breaks camp with the Rays.

The right-hander spent the past two seasons with Seattle, yet lat and flexor strains in 2016 and 2017 (respectively) prohibited him from tossing more than 21-1/3 innings. Scribner comes to the Rays with 169 innings of Major League experience, mostly with Oakland (2012-2015). In that time, the right-hander had worked to a 4.15 ERA/3.93 FIP with 5.53 K/BB and a 37% ground-ball rate.

While Scribner won’t blow anyone away with a heater that has averaged just 90.1 mph in the Majors (89.3 mph last year in just seven innings), writes Steve Adams (MLB Trade Rumors), he has an uncanny level of precision on the mound. Over his past 93 big league innings dating back to 2014, Scribner has issued just six walks (one intentional) and hit four batters. Among pitchers with at least 90 innings thrown over the past four years, none come remotely close to Scribner’s 0.58 BB/9 mark. (Josh Tomlin is next at 1.04.) He also ranks first in the Majors with a 73.1 percent first-pitch strike rate in that time.

Updated Spring Training roster released

Runzler and Scribner will join 62 others in Port Charlotte, starting Tuesday, February 13. You can see the current Spring Training roster below (number, name, position):

0 Smith, Mallex OF
2 Span, Denard OF
4 Snell, Blake LHP
5 Duffy, Matt INF
7 Johnson, Micah INF/OF
10 Dickerson, Corey OF
11 Hechavarria, Adeiny SS
13 Miller, Brad INF
14 Schimpf, Ryan INF
17 Coats, Jason* OF
18 Wendle, Joey INF
20 Souza Jr., Steven OF
21 Arroyo, Christian INF
22 Archer, Chris RHP
23 Odorizzi, Jake RHP
24 Eovaldi, Nate RHP
27 Adames, Willy INF
28 Robertson, Daniel INF
29 Snyder, Brandon* INF/OF
31 Moore, Adam* C
34 Faria, Jake RHP
35 Andriese, Matt RHP
36 Kittredge, Andrew RHP
37 Colomé, Alex RHP
38 Nuño, Vidal* LHP
39 Kiermaier, Kevin CF
40 Ramos, Wilson C
43 Jennings, Dan LHP
45 Sucre, Jesús C
46 Alvarado, José LHP
48 Yarbrough, Ryan LHP
49 Venters, Jonny* LHP
50 Pruitt, Austin RHP
52 Roe, Chaz RHP
54 Runzler, Dan* LHP
55 Stanek, Ryne RHP
56 Kolarek, Adam* LHP
57 Schultz, Jaime RHP
58 Hu, Chih-Wei RHP
59 Honeywell, Brent RHP
60 Murray, Colton* RHP
61 Wood, Hunter RHP
62 Hall, Cody* RHP
63 Castillo, Diego RHP
64 Chirinos, Yonny RHP
65 Mujica, José RHP
67 Fierro, Edwin* RHP
68 Snow, Forrest* RHP
69 Weber, Ryan* RHP
70 Bauers, Jake 1B/OF
71 Williams, Justin OF
72 Ciuffo, Nick* C
73 Wong, Kean* INF
74 Field, Johnny* OF
75 McCarthy, Joe* 1B/OF
76 Monell, Johnny* C
78 Alaniz, R.J.* RHP
79 Gibaut, Ian* RHP
80 Sullivan, Brett* C
81 Cronenworth, Jake* INF
82 Kay, Grant* INF
83 Bird, Kyle* LHP
84 Carrillo, Xorge* C
87 De León, José RHP

*Non-roster invitee

Media conference set for Wednesday

The Rays have scheduled a media conference set for Wednesday, where the team will unveil a uniform patch, promotions, and other plans to celebrate their 20th anniversary.

A banner hung outside the Trop on Monday (pictured above) which offered a sneak peak of what is to come, with a logo that combines the old Devil Ray and the modern burst, as well as images of some of the more notable players from throughout their first 20 seasons.

Players on the banner include Wade Boggs, Fred McGriff and Rolando Arrojo, Carl Crawford, Rocco Baldelli, Scott  Kazmir, Carlos Pena, B.J. Upton, and Ben Zobrist; and current standouts Chris Archer, Kevin Kiermaier and Steven Souza Jr.

Not pictured, however, are franchise cornerstone Evan Longoria or David Price.

According to Marc Topkin (Tampa Bay Times) Longoria allegedly is included in another anniversary display on the inside of the rotunda, along with Price (and other notable former Rays).

It isn’t yet known whether principle owner Stu Sternberg will use the media conference to announce that the land in Ybor City, recently procured by Hillsborough County, is the team’s preferred stadium site. An announcement is expected by week’s end.

In the meantime, more unflattering revelations about Hillsborough County’s handling of stadium negotiations with the Rays found the light of Day Tuesday, and one man found himself in the middle of some shady dealings once again: Hillsborough County Commissioner Ken Hagan.

Per Noah Pransky (Shadow of the Stadium, WTSP News) Hillsborough County has now spent nearly $400,000 on outside legal counsel in its quest to lure the Rays over from St. Petersburg, and public records indicate the two firms it now employs appear to be not only advising the county, but also negotiating on its behalf — and possibly withholding records related to the discussions from public view.

It should be noted that the withholding of public records is illegal. The question begs, is someone willing to file a complaint over public records issues with the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Department, or the Hillsborough County state attorney?

The Law firm of O’Melveny & Myers LLP, which employs an attorney named Irwin Raij, started collecting county checks in September for Raij’s time, billing Hillsborough County $58,524 over the final four months of 2017. O’Melveny & Myers LLP joins the Law Firm of Foley & Lardner.

Hagan has been repeatedly criticized for his lack of transparency in his handling of the stadium negotiations with the Rays, most recently hiding his attendance at a secret dinner at Bern’s Steakhouse between Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn and Rays officials including Stu Sternberg.

After repeated public records requests by Pransky, which resulted in numerous responses indicating that none existed, a county attorney produced a series of text messages and emails between Hagan and Raij from the commissioner’s personal phone and email accounts.

Those messages reveal a pattern of private meetings and behind-the-scenes negotiations on a project that could include hundreds of millions of dollars in public subsidies, writes Pransky. One text, sent from Raij to Hagan on Nov. 14, references a “marked up Rays document,” which has not been turned over.

Other texts between Raij and Hagan coordinate negotiations with local land owners, as well as the county’s response to media questions about the prospective new Tampa stadium – a surprise to several Hillsborough County commissioners I spoke to.

“My concern right now is the lack of transparency,” said Commissioner Victor Crist.  “I’d love to see the Rays playing in Hillsborough County and I think the (proposed) site in Ybor City is a great location with lots of opportunities for expanded development.  But the board needs to be kept in the loop.”

Florida’s public records laws require most records Hagan creates to be turned over when requested by any member of the public, including documents Hagan created and later gives to either the Foley or O’Melveny firms.  But no such records have been produced yet in response to my requests and multiple county staffers have confirmed the existence of such documents. Hagan has a long history of refusing to turn over public records.

County commissioner Crist also is concerned about the legal fees incurred by Hillsborough County, saying:

The cost (of legal fees) is shocking because its not something that we’ve discussed at the board. I don’t think we anticipated it would take this long (or) cost this much.  I think we’re going to have to get some answers and take a closer look at where do we draw the line…a good briefing is long overdue.

Pranksy found that Foley & Lardner, Raij’s previous employer, has been on legal retainer with Hillsborough County since 2014 at the cost of $4,500 per month, plus an additional $395 per hour in attorney fees and expenses related to travel. The $400-thousand in outside legal bills over the course of last three years are in addition to the countless hours county staffers have spent on developing a new stadium plan for the Rays.

This is but a small snippet of the shady dealings between Hillsborough County and the Tampa Bay Rays as they attempt to collect public contributions for a new stadium, which Pransky finds could be more than double the public cost of Raymond James Stadium, even when inflation is considered. It’s a fascinating and/or terrifying read that revolves around a polarizing figure who likely be viewed as a hero by some, and a villain by others. And worth the read if you have any skin in the game and a reason to be concerned.

Finally, for those of you wondering what impact the big announcement might have on the Tropicana Field site in St. Petersburg, well…

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