This is why you try not to burn any bridges in baseball.
Ryan Sweeney became a free agent after not being offered salary arbitration by the Boston Red Sox shortly before Christmas. But last Friday, he signed a minor-league contract with the Sox and will be headed to Fort Myers, Fla., sometime next week to prepare for spring training.
"At the end of the year, I was kind of in a tough situation," Sweeney said Monday. "I kind of assumed that they would non-tender me. I really thought free agency would be a different experience than it was. Unless you're a Zach Greinke or Josh Hamilton, it can be a tough process. It was hard to pick teams and wait for teams. It took longer than I thought it would."
Sweeney, 27, said he had three other clubs that were highly interested in him, but with spring training so close, he decided to go with what he knew. The Cedar Rapids Xavier graduate hit .260 in 63 games last season for the Red Sox, who traded for him and relief pitcher Andrew Bailey from the Oakland Athletics in the 2012 offseason.
He was injured a lot last season, including missing the last month and a half after breaking his hand punching a clubhouse door at Fenway Park following an out. Upon signing with Boston last weekend, Sweeney kidded in a Tweet that his door-punching days are over.
The outfielder has no guarantees of making the club, though they have improved with recent news that outfielder Ryan Kalish is headed for surgery on his shoulder. Sweeney said he has an opt-out clause, so if he doesn't make the roster, he can become a free agent.
"Anything to stay out of Triple-A," he said. "I know I have to have a good spring training ... But I'm in the prime of my career, I'm healthy now, I'm in good shape with what I've done in the offseason. A lot of this game is all about opportunity."
Sweeney is a career .280 hitter in 535 career big-league games and can provide good defense at all three outfield spots. He said he is healthy and in prime shape and excited to prove himself.
A two-week workout session earlier this month in California with Hall of Famer Rod Carew improved his swing, Sweeney said, and has him excited to show it off in spring training.
"My agent, Larry Reynolds, has known him forever," Sweeney said. "He has lived out in Los Angeles forever. I was going to go last year, but it didn't work out, getting traded and everything. This year, I made it a priority. He does a lot of things for the Twins, and they have spring training in Fort Myers, too. So he said if there's anything I need, to give him a call."Jeff Johnson is the Cedar Rapids Kernels beat writer for the Gazette, among other things. You can follow him on Twitter here.