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Jose heads south

Canseco aims to give Devil Rays some sting

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Posted: Thursday December 10, 1998 08:33 PM

  Canseco said he wants to be one of the key pieces in the Devil Rays' future AP

ST. PETERSBURG, Florida (AP) - The Tampa Bay Devil Rays hope Jose Canseco is right.

The 34-year-old outfielder thinks the addition of his bat can help make the expansion team significantly better in its second season.

Canseco, coming off a year in which he hit a career-high 46 home runs for the Toronto Blue Jays, signed a $2 million, one-year contract Thursday that includes performance bonuses and two club option years that could raise the total to $16 million over three seasons.

"The Devil Rays had good pitching and defense this year, and I'd like to hopefully add some offense," he said, adding that he's looking forward in batting regularly at hitter-friendly Tropicana Field.

"The ball carries extremely well. Hopefully I can stay healthy," Canseco added. "I think history has shown that if I stay healthy I can hit anywhere from 40 to 50 home runs."

Another goal would be improving his batting average, which slipped to .237 last season when he struck out an AL-high 159 times while driving in 107 runs for the Blue Jays.

A .269 career hitter with 397 home runs and 1,214 RBIs in 14 seasons with the Blue Jays, Oakland Athletics, Texas Rangers and Boston Red Sox, he appeared in 151 games in 1998.

"If I can get the average up just 20 points it's going to mean seven to 10 home runs and a lot more RBIs," Canseco said.

Canseco, who reportedly sought a three- or four-year package worth over than $6 million annually to return to Toronto, stressed during negotiations that he considers himself an everyday outfielder who can best help the team by playing regularly.

The Devil Rays, who made obtaining a right-handed power hitter their top offseason priority, say he'll likely split time between left field and designated hitter.

"The one parameter I'll use is whatever is best to keep him healthy and keep him playing at the top of his game," manager Larry Rothschild said.

Canseco stressed he's willing to fill any role the club asks, adding that he'd also like to bring some leadership to the clubhouse. "I'm just hoping to be one of the pieces to help the team win. I don't think any one player can be the piece," he said.

The Devil Rays had been relatively quiet this winter before targeting Canseco, who is said to have rejected a $3 million, one-year offer from the Blue Jays.

General manager Chuck LaMar will continue to explore trade possibilities, but said he's also comfortable with the idea of Canseco being the lone major offseason addition.

"There's been no expansion club in history ever to end up in the top five in either pitching or defense and we did it in both," LaMar said. "And I'm not so sure we had as bad a club offensively as our statistics indicated."

The Devil Rays finished second in the AL in fielding and were fourth in pitching. Offensively, they were 13th in batting and last in home runs with 111.

"If a trade happens, so be it," LaMar said. "But we'd be happy going into spring training - now that Jose's aboard - exactly the way we are."

 
Related information
Stories
Verducci: Firing up the Hot Stove
Seeking punch, D-Rays sign Canseco
Stats
1998 Major League Home Run Leaders
Active Career Home Run Leaders
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