Blue Jays sign right-hander Rhiner Cruz to minor-league deal

Rhiner Cruz pitched for the Braves' triple-A team in 2017 (Ted S. Warren/AP)

The Toronto Blue Jays added a veteran reliever more than four years removed from his last MLB appearance Thursday, signing Rhiner Cruz to a minor-league deal.

Cruz, 31, last pitched in the big leagues in 2013 as a member of the Astros. He first joined Houston as a Rule 5 Draft pick in 2011 and posted a 5.31 ERA with 56 strikeouts and 40 walks over 76.1 big-league innings from 2012-13. At the time he averaged 95.3 m.p.h. with his fastball while mixing in a slider and changeup.

Since then, Cruz has pitched for the Rakuten Golden Eagles of the NPB (2014-15) and in the Mexican League (2017). He returned to affiliated baseball in 2017 and posted a 2.84 ERA in 50.2 innings for the Braves’ triple-A team while walking 24, striking out 63 and allowing three home runs.

The Blue Jays’ projected bullpen includes Roberto Osuna, Ryan Tepera, Danny Barnes and Aaron Loup. Other candidates for relief roles include Al Alburquerque, Matt Dermody, Tim Mayza and Carlos Ramirez. Alburquerque, whose minor-league deal with the Blue Jays was also announced Thursday, receives an invitation to big-league spring training as does Cruz.

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