Former Orioles closer Chris Ray added to bullpen mix

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Chris Ray pitched for the Rangers last year before being traded to the Giants in July. (Getty Images photo/Al Bello)

Another interesting Minor League deal worked by Jack Zduriencik on Tuesday as the Mariners signed former Baltimore closer Chris Ray as a non-roster invitee to Spring Training.

Ray, 29, had 51 saves in two seasons for the Orioles before undergoing Tommy John surgery on his elbow in ’08. But he was healthy enough to pitch in 63 games for the Rangers and Giants last year, splitting his season between two teams that wound up in the World Series.

Without question, Ray could help the Mariners if he’s healthy. He was 5-0 with a 3.72 ERA last year, though he didn’t pitch in the playoffs.

Ray was making $975,000 last season and the Giants — who acquired him for Bengie Molina in a July trade — chose to not tender him a contract rather than go to arbitration. The fact he’s agreed to a Minor League deal would indicate he’s willing to take a chance in Seattle, where David Aardsma won’t be ready for at least the first few weeks of the season as he recovers from hip surgery and the rest of the bullpen is very young.

At this point, Brandon League would appear the front runner to fill Aardsma’s role initially, though Zduriencik says the team will see how things shake out in Spring Training. Rookies Dan Cortes and Josh Lueke, a pair of hard-throwing right handers, could be targeted for late-inning roles if they show well in spring.

Rule 5 draft pick Jose Flores also will be given a shot, but he’s only 21. The Mariners also have left-handers Garrett Olson, Cesar Jimenez and Mauricio Robles, as well as a number of young right-handed prospects.

So it’ll be interesting to see where Ray fits into the mix and if he’ll be targeted for late-inning opportunities as things shake out. He was primarily a late-inning reliever last year, with 50 of his appearances coming in the seventh inning or later.

But after throwing a lot for the Giants initially after his acquisition, his use dwindled down the stretch and he was left off the postseason rosters.

Seems like another cost-efficient move with potential upside for the Mariners, who’ve already added starting pitcher Nate Robertson, infielder Adam Kennedy, outfielder Jody Gerut, catcher Josh Bard and a handful of other interesting veterans through similar Minor League deals.

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