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08/01/2009 1:33 PM ET
Rays sign RHP Jeff Bennett; option Nelson; release Houser
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ST. PETERSBURG -- The Tampa Bay Rays have signed right-handed reliever Jeff Bennett to a major league contract. To clear room on the 25-man roster, right-handed pitcher Joe Nelson was optioned to Durham (AAA). To make room on the 40-man roster, left-handed pitcher James Houser was released. Bennett will wear #47 and will be in uniform for today's game vs. Kansas City.

Bennett, 29, went 2-4 with a 3.18 ERA in 33 games for the Braves before heading to the disabled list on June 25 with a fracture to his non-throwing left hand, which required surgery. Following a brief rehabilitation assignment at Gwinnett (AAA) he was granted his release on July 30. He has appeared with the Braves each of the last three seasons. Last year he pitched to a 3.70 ERA while posting a 3-7 record and three saves in a career-high 72 games (4 starts). He also set career bests with 97.1 innings pitched and 68 strikeouts. He held right-handed hitters to a .228 avg., while surrendering one home run in 228 at-bats. His 80.2 innings pitched as a reliever in 2008 were sixth most in the National League.

Originally a 19th round selection of the Pittsburgh Pirates in 1998, he was a Rule 5 selection by the Milwaukee Brewers in 2003 and made his Major League debut for the Brewers in 2004, appearing in 60 games. In 168 career games (6 starts) with the Brewers and Braves he has pitched to a 3.96 ERA (215.2-IP, 95-ER).

Nelson, 34, pitched in 42 games for the Rays this season, posting a 3-0 record with three saves and a 4.02 ERA. He signed with the Rays during the winter after spending last season with the Florida Marlins.

Houser, 24, went 4-5 with a 5.16 ERA in 18 games (15 starts) at Durham. The Sarasota, Fla. native was the Rays' second round selection in the 2003 Amateur Draft.

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