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Rays protect four, sign seven Minor League free agents

Prospects protected from Rule 5 Draft; three right-handers invited to camp

ST. PETERSBURG -- The Rays added four prospects -- right-handers Kirby Yates and Jesse Hahn, infielder Vince Belnome and left-hander C.J. Riefenhauser -- to their 40-man roster, and protected them from the Rule 5 Draft, on Wednesday.

The Rays have three available openings to add players to their roster during December's Winter Meetings in Lake Buena Vista, Fla.

In addition, Tampa Bay signed three right-handers -- Mark Lowe, Victor Mateo and Sam Runion -- to Minor League contracts with an invitation to Major League Spring Training. Also signed to Minor League contracts were catcher Mayo Acosta and right-handed pitchers Mike Colla, Eduardo Quiñonez and Albert Suarez.

Players first signed at age 18 must be added to the 40-man rosters within five seasons or they become eligible to be drafted by other organizations through the Rule 5 process. Players signed at 19 years or older have to be protected within four seasons.

Clubs pay $50,000 to select a player in the Major League phase of the Rule 5 Draft, slated to take place on Dec. 12. If that player doesn't stay on the 25-man roster for the full season, he must be offered back to his former team for $25,000.

In other words, an international player or high school draftee signed in 2009, assuming he was 18 or under as of June 5 of that year, must be protected. A college player taken in the 2010 Draft is in the same boat.

Belnome, 25, hit .300 with eight home runs and 67 RBIs in 127 games for Triple-A Durham. In his first year in the Rays system, he was named Durham's Most Valuable Player after earning spots on both the International League midseason and postseason All-Star teams. Belnome was acquired from the Padres in exchange for Minor League left-hander Chris Rearick following the 2012 season.

Hahn, 24, went 2-1 with a 2.15 ERA in 19 starts at Class A Charlotte in 2013, and was named to the Florida State League's midseason All-Star Team. The right-hander has a career 2.38 ERA and 122 strikeouts in 121 innings over two Minor League seasons. He was selected by Tampa Bay in the sixth round of the 2010 First-Year Player Draft out of Virginia Tech.

Riefenhauser, 23, split the season between Double-A Montgomery and Durham, compiling a 1.22 ERA in 51 total appearances. He was named to the Southern League's midseason All-Star Team, and also represented the U.S. Team in the Futures Game at New York's Citi Field in July. The left-hander has a career 2.99 ERA over four Minor League seasons. Riefenhauser was selected by the Rays in the 20th round of the 2010 Draft out of Chipola (Fla.) Junior College.

Yates, 26, spent the season at Durham and earned midseason All-Star honors, going 3-2 with a 1.90 ERA and 93 strikeouts in 51 appearances. His 20 saves led Tampa Bay farmhands and tied for third in the International League. Following the season, Yates was named the organization's Best Relief Pitcher. Over five Minor League seasons, he has averaged 11.9 strikeouts per nine innings with a .202 batting average against. Yates was signed as a non-drafted free agent in June 2009.

Rays' 40-man roster

Pitchers: Chris Archer, Jeff Beliveau, Alex Cobb, Alex Colome, Brandon Gomes, Hahn, Jeremy Hellickson, Josh Lueke, Jake McGee, Mike Montgomery, Matt Moore, Jake Odorizzi, Joel Peralta, David Price, Cesar Ramos, Riefenhauser, Felipe Rivero, Enny Romero, Alex Torres, Wesley Wright, Yates

Catchers: Chris Gimenez, Jose Lobaton

Infielders: Tim Beckham, Belnome, Yunel Escobar, Hak-Ju Lee, Evan Longoria, Ben Zobrist

Outfielders: David DeJesus, Sam Fuld, Brandon Guyer, Desmond Jennings, Matt Joyce, Kevin Kiermaier, Wil Myers, Sean Rodriguez

Bill Chastain is a reporter for
Read More: Tampa Bay Rays, Victor Mateo, Mark Lowe, Jesse Hahn, Kirby Yates, Sam Runion, C.J. Riefenhauser, Vince Belnome