RYAN FREEL, a former major leaguer known for his fearless play but whose career was cut short after eight seasons by a series of head and other injuries, was found dead Saturday in Jacksonville, Fla., according to the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office.
Freel, who was 36, died of what appeared to be a self-inflicted shotgun wound, sheriff's office spokesman Shannon Hartley wrote in an email Sunday. The medical examiner will make the final determination of the cause of death.
"RIP Ryan Freel!! Great teammate, great guy,n loved his family!" former Cincinnati Reds teammate Sean Casey tweeted. "Such a sad day today with his passing!Awful news!Prayers are with his family!"
The speedy Freel spent six of his eight big-league seasons with the Reds and finished his career in 2009 with a .268 average and 143 steals.
"Really hurt by his passing!" Reds second baseman Brandon Phillips said on Twitter. "You never will be forgotten."
Freel drew attention in 2006 when he was quoted by the Dayton Daily News as saying he had an imaginary friend, Farney. "He's a little guy who lives in my head who talks to me and I talk to him," Freel was quoted as saying. "Everybody thinks I talk to myself, so I tell 'em I'm talking to Farney."
The Jacksonville native thrilled fans with his all-out style, yet it took a toll on his career. During his playing days, he once estimated he had sustained up to 10 concussions. Freel missed 30 games in 2007 after a collision with a teammate caused a concussion.
Freel showed no fear as he ran into walls, hurtled into the seats and crashed into other players trying to make catches. His jarring, diving grabs often made the highlight reels, and he was praised by those he played with and against for always having a dirt-stained uniform.
Selected by the Toronto Blue Jays in the 10th round of the 1995 amateur draft out of Tallahassee Community College, Freel made his big-league debut in April 2001 with the Blue Jays after second baseman Homer Bush injured a thumb.
Freel appeared in just nine major league games that season, became a free agent and spent all of 2002 at Tampa Bay's Triple A team. He signed a minor league deal with the Reds that November and made it back to the majors the following April.
He stayed with the Reds through 2008, when a torn tendon in his right hamstring caused him to miss the final 103 games of the season. He was traded to Baltimore at that December's winter meetings and split the 2009 season among the Orioles, Chicago Cubs and Kansas City Royals.
The following year, he played in nine games for the Somerset Patriots of the independent Atlantic League.
Jacksonville.com reported he was hired as baseball coach at the St. Joseph Academy on June 28 this year and then "backed away" from that position.
Pittsburgh has agreed to trade two-time All-Star closer Joel Hanrahan to Boston for prospects, but sources say the deal is pending physicals for all the players and is not expected to be completed before Christmas. ESPN reports that the Pirates could receive three players in return: pitchers Mark Melancon and Stolmy Pimentel and first baseman/outfielder Jerry Sands.
Hanrahan, 31, is in his final year of arbitration eligibility, and likely would be in line for a raise to about $7 million after working last season on a 1-year, $4.1 million contract.
* Raul Ibanez is returning to one of his old teams, but it's not the Phillies. The slugger agreed to a 1-year, $2.75 million contract with the Seattle Mariners, a source told the Associated Press. The deal allows Ibanez to earn an additional $1.25 million in performance bonuses.
Ibanez, 40, began his big-league career with Seattle from 1996-2000, then rejoined the Mariners from 2004-08.
This year, Ibanez hit .240 with 19 homers and 62 RBI in 384 at-bats for the New York Yankees. Including the playoffs, Ibanez hit five homers that tied the score and eight that put the Yanks ahead, according to STATS.