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Devil Rays Sign Brazelton

By John Manuel

August 26, 2001

Dewon Brazelton

The Tampa Bay Devil Rays played their last trump card--an immediate big league callup--to get a deal done with first-round pick Dewon Brazelton. It worked.

Brazelton, a righthander out of Middle Tennessee State drafted third overall in June, agreed to a $4.8 million major league contract Saturday, according to Marc Topkin of the St. Petersburg Times. The contract includes a spot on the Devil Ray's big league roster for September--just one week after the club and the pitcher agreed to terms.

Last year, two draft picks, Padres infielder Xavier Nady and Devil Rays' shortstop Jace Brewer, received big league callups as part of their contracts. Nady went 1-for-1, while Brewer never got off the bench.

In his comments to the Times, Brazelton didn't sound like he necessarily needed to play a lot. But getting to be on the big league roster immediately was obviously a deal-maker for the 20-year-old from Tullahoma, Tenn.

"It's something I wanted more than anything," Brazelton told Topkin. "I realized they were not going to give me all the money, but that's something you can't put a price tag on. If I get to play some that would be fine, but you can't put a price tag on being able to live the life of a major league ballplayer. I feel like the next time won't be my first time, that I'll already have major league experience.

"I will probably seem like a little girl to them because I'm pretty sure the first time I step on that field I'll probably break down in tears or something."

Brazelton hasn't pitched in a game since a 2-1 loss to Tennessee in an NCAA regional matchup on May 25, so it's unlikely he'll step on a mound during a game. But Brazelton came close to stepping in the classroom last week instead, which would have ended negotiations. He had enrolled for his senior year at Middle Tennessee State and had an 8 a.m. class scheduled last Monday, but didn't attend. His adviser, agent Bo McKinnis, said the Brazelton camp had received a last-minute call from Rays scouting director Dan Jennings, asking him not to go to class and to give the club more time to come up with a solution.

Other than the big league callup, a reduction in the contract offer from five years to four helped get the deal done. Topkin reports Brazelton will receive a $4.2 million bonus spread over the term of the contract, with salaries of $50,000 this year (a prorated share of $305,000), $200,000 in 2002 and $350,000 in 2003, with his 2004 salary to be negotiated.

"I believe the agreement on the number of years is what allowed us to make a fair deal," McKinnis told the Times.

Brazelton will attend instructional league, and the club held out the possibility he could see action in the Arizona Fall League. Athletics lefthander Mark Mulder was another pitcher with such an arrangement, making his pro debut in the AFL in 1998.

Devil Rays general manager Chuck Lamar told the Times he thought Brazelton would benefit from being around the Rays' young ballclub, which has had as many as 12 rookies on the big league roster at one time.

"If we were fighting for a championship or had a team of veterans it might be a different type of atmosphere," he said. "But he's got a chance to be one of the pieces to the puzzle with these players, and I wanted him to get exposed to this level of competition and see our major league staff and then go straight into the instructional league. I think it helps recoup some of the lost time."

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