The Brewers re-signed reliever Mark DiFelice to a Minor League contract on Tuesday and also announced they had picked up former Rangers left-hander A.J. Murray on a Minors deal that includes an invitation to big league Spring Training camp.
DiFelice will not be in big league camp because he will be rehabbing from a Dec. 3 shoulder surgery that’s likely to sideline him for all of 2010. The Brewers nontendered DiFelice on Saturday to free his spot on the 40-man roster, briefly making the 33-year-old a free agent.
Milwaukee took a similar strategy last year with left-hander Chris Capuano, who underwent Tommy John surgery in 2008 and missed most of the 2009 season. Since Capuano and DiFelice suffered their injury on the Brewers’ watch, the team is contractually obligated to pay for their rehabilitation. By signing the players to a Minor League contract, assistant general manager Gord Ash said, the club’s medical officials have more control over that process.
Capuano made six Minor League appearances late in the 2009 season and has since re-signed another Minors contract for 2010.
In 74 Brewers appearances over the past two seasons, DiFelice posted a 3.44 ERA. Working almost exclusively with his signature cut fastball, he held right-handed hitters to a .218 batting average.
“They did me a favor bringing me back,” DiFelice said. “Whether that’s because they feel some responsibility to rehab the injury, or they just think I’ll be able to help later on, I don’t know. Hopefully, they feel like I’m going to make a comeback and that I can be a valuable commodity for the future and help them. It’s just a testament to the relationship I have with the Brewers.
“I’m glad it worked out. I didn’t want it to end the way it did.”
DiFelice will earn slightly less than $100,000 in 2010. He will be a free agent again after the season, but said that if he’s healthy it would be difficult to leave the organization.
“If they’re going to sign me knowing I won’t be able to participate, I want to come back the following year,” he said.
Like Capuano, DiFelice will work at the team’s year-round facility in Phoenix. He concedes he’s a long shot to pitch in 2010, but is not ready to completely write off that possibility.
“I still have hopes of pitching at the end of this year,” said DiFelice, whose surgery repaired a torn labrum and rotator cuff. “With this type of injury, it’s all about how I respond.”
Murray, 27, had been in the Texas Rangers organization since 2001. He pitched at Double-A Frisco and Triple-A Oklahoma City last season, going a combined 4-2 with a 2.87 ERA and one save in 41 relief appearances.
He made 16 appearances in the Major Leagues with the Rangers between 2007 (14 games, two starts) and 2008 (two starts), going 2-2 with a 4.29 ERA.