Rays sign reliever Wagner to two-year deal

Neil Wagner delivers a pitch. (Jon Blacker/CP)

Recently released Toronto Blue Jays reliever Neil Wagner has signed a two-year minor-league deal with the Tampa Bay Rays that includes an invitation to big league spring training in 2016, according to an industry source.

Wagner underwent Tommy John surgery last month and was cut when the Blue Jays needed space on the 40-man roster.

The 30-year-old pitched well for the 2013 Blue Jays, and made 10 appearances for the 2014 team before going on the disabled list with a forearm injury. Though he initially hoped to avoid Tommy John surgery, he eventually underwent the procedure August 19.

Most of the 2015 season will be spent rehabbing from the ligament replacement operation with the Rays’ medical staff and trainers. Wagner aims to be pitching at full strength by spring of 2016, at which point he has a spring training invitation.

He showed he’s capable of retiring big league hitters in 2013, when he posted a 3.79 ERA with 33 strikeouts in 38 innings out of Toronto’s bullpen with an average fastball velocity of 94.9 mph. He wasn’t as effective this year, posting an 8.10 ERA in 10 appearances with Toronto before injuring his arm.

Wagner, who debuted with the 2011 Oakland Athletics, drew interest from other clubs before signing with the Rays.

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