02/11/09 10:50 PM EST
Blue Jays, Millar finalize deal
Veteran signs Minor League contract with spring invite
By Jordan Bastian / MLB.com
Millar, who had tours with the Red Sox and Orioles over the past six seasons, will provide the Jays with a veteran option off their bench. Millar might not be on Toronto's roster, but the club is inviting him to Spring Training to give him every opportunity to make the team in time for Opening Day.
Millar joins infielders Jose Bautista, John McDonald and Joe Inglett as the frontrunners to land a spot on Toronto's bench. Millar, 37, would give the Blue Jays a right-handed bat to potentially help spell some of the club's left-handed hitters against a tough lefty opponent.
As things currently stand, the Jays project to have three left-handed hitters -- first baseman Lyle Overbay and young outfielders Adam Lind and Travis Snider -- regularly in their lineup. Millar has the ability to spell one of those players at first base, designated hitter or in a corner outfield spot, if needed.
Millar also provides some insurance in case Toronto feels Snider might benefit from more seasoning with Triple-A Las Vegas. Snider, who was the club's top pick in the 2006 First-Year Player Draft, is in line to open the year as the Jays' regular left fielder, but he's still only 21 years old and has just 24 big league games under his belt.
Last season, Millar hit just .234, but he belted 20 home runs and had 72 RBIs for Baltimore. Toronto only had one player (Vernon Wells) with at least 20 homers a year ago, and the club is hoping for better production at the plate in 2009.
For his career, Millar has hit .277 with a .361 on-base percentage and a .275 average against left-handed pitchers. Millar's best season came in 2003, when he hit .276 with 25 homers and 96 RBIs for the Red Sox.
Also on Wednesday, the Jays reached an agreement on a Minor League contract with Japanese left-hander Shigeki Noguchi, according to Sports Hochi in Japan. Noguchi, 34, is expected to begin the season at Double-A or Triple-A in Toronto's farm system. Noguchi last pitched for the Yomiuri Giants in '07, posting a 4.30 ERA over 31 games.