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12/14/09 5:44 PM ET

Rays sign eight to Minor League deals

Richard, Bateman headline group eyeing shot at Majors

ST. PETERSBURG -- The Rays signed eight players to Minor League contracts on Monday, each with an invitation to Spring Training.

The following players were signed and will report to Port Charlotte, Fla., when the Rays begin Spring Training in February: first baseman Chris Richard; right-handed pitchers Winston Abreu, Joe Bateman, Jeff Bennett and Richard De Los Santos; and left-handed pitchers Jason Cromer, Carlos Hernandez and R.J. Swindle.

Richard, 35, appeared in 13 games for the Rays and 100 games for Triple-A Durham in 2009. He hit .263 for the Bulls and led the team with 24 home runs, 75 RBIs and a .521 slugging percentage. He has hit 64 homers in three years with Durham to become the franchise's Triple-A career leader.

Abreu, 32, went 3-1 with 15 saves and a 1.94 ERA in 37 appearances for Durham last season. He appeared in five games with the Rays and the Indians. While in Durham, he struck out 77 batters in 51 innings and held opponents to a .133 batting average.

Bateman, 29, signed with the Rays last April and went 6-2 with a 3.02 ERA, four saves and a .193 opponents' batting average in 44 games for Durham. He owns a 2.92 ERA and 50 saves over eight Minor League seasons.

Bennett, 29, made 11 relief appearances for the Rays last season after signing on Aug. 1. He pitched in 44 Major League games with the Braves and the Rays, compiling a 2-4 record and 5.01 ERA. In parts of four seasons with the Brewers, Braves and Rays he has compiled a 4.30 ERA.

De Los Santos, 25, pitched in 13 games for Class A Charlotte after recovering from offseason shoulder surgery. He went 2-0 with a 0.79 ERA, converted 10 of his 11 save opportunities and limited opponents to a .145 batting average.

Cromer, 29, split the 2009 season between Double-A Montgomery and Durham. In a combined 27 starts, he went 11-6 with a 2.99 ERA. He ranked third in the Rays' organization in victories and ninth in ERA. For Durham, he made 19 starts and went 7-3 with a 2.25 ERA.

Hernandez, 29, went 7-6 with a 3.29 ERA for Durham last season in 21 starts, second most on the team behind Wade Davis. He spent parts of three seasons in the Major Leagues with the Astros.

Swindle, 26, pitched in six games for the Brewers last season. He spent the majority of 2009 with Triple-A Nashville, a Brewers affiliate, where he went 3-1 with a 1.03 ERA in 31 appearances. Swindle was briefly in the Rays' organization last August, when the Rays claimed him from Milwaukee, but was designated for assignment the next day and claimed by Cleveland. He finished the season at Triple-A Columbus and made six appearances.

Bill Chastain is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.