Haynes plucked from crowded outfield

Haynes plucked from crowded outfield

ANAHEIM -- Somebody had to go. Nathan Haynes turned out to be that man on Friday when he was claimed off waivers by the Tampa Bay Rays, reducing by one popular, talented figure the crowd in the Angels' outfield.

Haynes, 28, is a natural center fielder with sprinter's speed. He came to camp aware of the fact that the Angels offered little hope of a job for Haynes with six proven Major League talents ahead of him on the depth chart after acquiring free-agent center fielder Torii Hunter.

"I'll just try to show what I can do, and hope that somebody out there sees that I can help them," Haynes said on Wednesday. "I know I can play at this level. It's just a matter of getting the opportunity."

Despite the circumstances, Haynes kept his spirits high and was having a solid spring, hitting .265 with six runs scored and four RBIs in 19 Cactus League games. He batted .267 in 40 games for the Angels in his rookie year of 2007.

"Nate can play," Angels third baseman Chone Figgins said of his close friend. "I hope he gets his chance to show what he can do, because he's a talented player with a lot of knowledge -- and he's tough.

"He helped me tremendously when I was struggling early last year. He knows my stroke as well as I do, and he was able to point things out to me from the dugout during games. Nate knows the game, and he knows how to play. I hope this works out for him."

Manager Mike Scioscia acknowledged Haynes' value as a backup outfielder during the club's ride to the 2007 American League West title.

"Nate has been a quality individual and a terrific player in his role for us," Scioscia said. "It was just a matter of numbers here. We really wish him the best. He has a lot of skills, and he helped us any time we needed him."

Haynes provided quality defense along with his .267 average in his first Major League season. A succession of injuries had kept him in the Minor Leagues before he broke out with a .386 average at Triple-A Salt Lake in '06, earning the call to Anaheim.

Selected by the A's in the first round of the 1997 First-Year Player Draft, Haynes' development was impeded by eight surgeries, including three knee operations and three hernia surgeries. He managed to maintain his great speed, enabling him to run down balls in gaps and play all three outfield spots capably.

In his final Cactus League start with the Angels on Tuesday in Tucson, Haynes had an RBI triple against former Cy Young Award winner Brandon Webb of the D-backs and also singled.

Haynes was acquired by the Angels from the A's along with outfielder Jeff DaVanon and pitcher Elvin Nina for pitcher Omar Olivares and infielder Randy Velarde on July 29, 1999. He signed with the Angels as a free agent on June 22, 2006.

The Angels now have 38 players on their 40-man roster.

Lyle Spencer is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.