Texas adds Fukumori to roster
Shelton designated; close to deal, Jennings has physical
ARLINGTON -- Relief pitcher Kazuo Fukumori is finally with the Rangers but first baseman Chris Shelton is not, a move that could open up a spot for rookie infielder German Duran.The Rangers added Fukumori to the 40-man roster on Monday and made room for him by designating Shelton for assignment. The Rangers acquired Shelton from the Detroit Tigers for outfielder Freddy Guzman at the Winter Meetings last month as a possible right-handed platoon partner for first baseman Ben Broussard and have 10 days to trade, release or outright him to the Minor Leagues. The Rangers will have to make another move on the roster later this week when they add free agent pitcher Jason Jennings. That deal is just about done, and Jennings underwent his physical on Monday. "It's getting close, that's all I can say," Jennings said Monday. By designating Shelton, the Rangers are without a right-handed hitting first baseman on the 40-man roster. But club officials acknowledge that Duran will be given a shot to make the team as a utility infielder and could end up playing some first base. He played second base last season, but the Rangers worked him out at a number of positions in the Arizona Fall League. "He's coming to camp to be evaluated for a big league spot," Rangers general manager Jon Daniels said. "We're not labeling him as a utility player, but some guys do break in the big leagues that way." Duran hit .300 with 22 home runs, 81 runs scored and 84 RBIs in 130 games and 480 at-bats at Double-A Frisco in 2007. He also hit .281 with two home runs, 11 RBIs and an .806 OPS in the Arizona Fall League while playing multiple positions. He is not yet on the 40-man roster. But right now, the Rangers offense is dominated by left-handed hitters including Broussard, third baseman Hank Blalock, center fielder Josh Hamilton and designated hitter Frank Catalanotto. David Murphy, the leading candidate to be the fourth outfielder, and utility infielder Ramon Vazquez are also left-handed hitters. That's why the Rangers are looking hard at a right-handed hitter for the bench, whether it's Duran, Nelson Cruz, Jason Botts, Travis Metcalf or former All-Star Edgardo Alfonzo, who is coming to camp on a Minor League contract. The Rangers may also bring Nate Gold to camp as a non-roster player but have no plans right now to go outside the organization for a right-handed hitter.
Shelton spent last season with Triple-A Toledo of the International League, batting .269 with 14 home runs, 31 doubles and 65 RBIs in 139 games. The Tigers' Opening Day first baseman in 2006, Shelton has a .281 average with 35 home runs in 249 career games in the Majors, all with Detroit from 2004-06."We had a decision to make to create a roster spot," Daniels said. "We looked at our options and decided that was the best way to go at this point." The Rangers reached an agreement with Fukumori earlier this month but have been waiting to get the contract approved by both the Commissioner's Office and the Players Association. Fukumori agreed to a base salary of $1.4 million for 2008 with options for 2009 and 2010. The 2009 option vests if he spends fewer than 30 days on the disabled list this season, an unusual clause that was the cause of the delay in the contract being approved. The Rangers hold a club option for 2010. Fukumori is coming off elbow surgery but has been throwing and is expected to be ready for the start of Spring Training. "I think he's planning to report early," Daniels said. "He should be good to go."
T.R. Sullivan is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.