Rays ink P Heath Hembree, seven others to minor league deals

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- The Tampa Bay Rays agreed Thursday to minor league contracts with right-handers Heath Hembree, Ben Heller, Colten Brewer, Braden Bristo, Zack Burdi, Trevor Kelley and Elvin Rodriguez, and catcher Nick Dini.

All eight will report to major league spring training.

The Rays also invited 18 minor league players to big league camp, including last year's Tampa Bay minor league player of the year Kyle Manzardo and minor league pitcher of the year Mason Montgomery.

Hembree has been with seven different teams. He is 21-13 with a 4.39 ERA and 11 saves in 357 relief appearances. The 10-year major leaguer appeared in four postseason games with the 2018 World Series champion Boston Red Sox.

Heller went 2-0 with a 2.59 ERA in 31 appearances over parts of four seasons with the Yankees. He has been limited to seven appearances and 8 2/3 innings over the last two minor league seasons due to a stress fracture in his elbow.

Manzardo hit .327 with 22 home runs and 81 RBI in 93 games between Class-A Bowling Green and Double-A Montgomery last season.

Montgomery was 6-3 with a 2.10 ERA with 171 strikeouts in 27 starts between Bowling Green and Montgomery in 2022.