Skip to main content

Rays Invite 2 Ex-Yankees Relievers to Spring Training

Ben Heller and Braden Bristo both spent time with the Yankees organization. Now they’re joining an AL East rival.

The Rays announced a handful of minor league signings on Thursday. The list included two former members of the Yankees organization.

Right-handers Ben Heller and Braden Bristo received non-roster invites to spring training from Tampa Bay. They will be joined by catcher Nick Dini and fellow righties Colten Brewer, Zack Burdi, Heath Hembree, Trevor Kelley and Elvin Rodriguez.

The Yankees acquired Heller in 2016 in the midseason trade that sent Andrew Miller to Cleveland. The 31-year-old pitched in a handful of games for New York from 2016-2020, but Tommy John surgery forced him to miss the entire 2018 campaign.

All 31 of Heller’s major league appearances have come with the Yankees, though he’s spent time in the minors with Cleveland and Minnesota. He signed with the Diamondbacks in 2021, but a stress fracture in his elbow ended his season before it could begin.

Heller, who has not pitched in the majors since 2020, recorded a 9.35 ERA over 8.2 innings in the Twins’ system last year. He owns a 2.59 ERA for his big league career.

“I’ve always been infatuated with the Rays [sic] ability to get the most out of pitchers who are seemingly overlooked by other teams,” Heller wrote in an Instagram post. “I can’t think of a better fit for myself.”

Bristo, meanwhile, has zero major league experience.

A 23rd-round draft pick of the Yankees in 2016, the 28-year-old spent the last two years at Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. The reliever tallied a 4.70 ERA with 5.3 BB/9 and 10.9 K/9 as a RailRider.

Bristo owns a 3.51 ERA for his minor league career. 


Follow Gary Phillips on Twitter (@GaryHPhillips). Be sure to bookmark Inside The Pinstripes and check back daily for news, analysis and more.