NRIs may not make an impact, but they're worth rooting for
I spied Guastavo in Kissimmee. The sighting was, given the clarity of a Florida morn, a glimpse out of the blue, like a Golden-crowned Warbler in the states. The proper name of this rare bird is
Welcome to spring training, where you never quite know whom you will run into and where. Seeing Chacin in an Astros uniform -- by way of the Blue Jays, Nationals and Phillies in just the past two years -- is a moment of surprise that happens in just about every camp: forgotten faces in strange places.
One of the great quirks of spring training camps is the non-roster invitee. The Pirates, Royals and Yankees have invited an entire team's worth of NRIs to join their 40-man roster players, each handing out at least 25 invitations. The Padres doled out just three invites.
The legion of NRIs include a
The majority of the hundreds of NRIs are top prospects not yet on the 40-man roster and catchers needed to catch the brigades of pitchers throwing bullpen sessions. But the most interesting of the NRIs are the journeymen, the has-beens and never-weres hanging around the fringes of the game for one more crack at the show.
Those guys are close to my heart.
The veteran NRIs all have great stories to tell. This year finds a rare quartet of NRIs who did not play at all last season and despite making huge sums of money in the game are back for more:
Truth be told, the overwhelming majority of veteran NRIs make for better stories than ballplayers. Most eventually will wash out of the game with little or no impact in the majors. But the reason clubs keep handing out these golden tickets is the chance that one of them turns out like the NRI who came to Pirates camp last year. The guy was 27 years old, a 14th round pick 10 years earlier, and already had been released by the Atlanta Braves and cut loose by the Minnesota Twins. He had just 77 at-bats in the majors, none since 2007, and a .208 batting average. He had logged almost 1,000 games in the minors. He had played first base and the outfield without distinction. He didn't make the Opening Day roster. But the Pirates called him up July 1. Former NRI
I'm not sure if there is another Garrett Jones on the list below: the 13 most interesting veteran NRIs in camp this year. These are guys who you probably lost track of, some of whom haven't played in the majors in many years. It's a high-mileage group traveling on wounded wings and fervent prayers. But I do know, as a kindred NRI, all of them are worth rooting for as they look for one more chance in the big leagues.