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Figueroa excited for first big league experience

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ANAHEIM -- Cole Figueroa's selection from Triple-A Durham gave the 26-year-old infielder his first Major League callup.

Interestingly, his callup means that all four players acquired from the Padres in exchange for shortstop Jason Bartlett on Dec. 17, 2010, have reached the Major Leagues. That list also includes left-hander Cesar Ramos, right-hander Brandon Gomes, and right-hander Adam Russell.

"Obviously, I'd rather [the move] be just on merit on my own," Figueroa said. "I mean, you never want to see one of the best players in baseball, not just on the Rays, go down. But, hopefully, I can just help out a minuscule bit while I'm here. Have some fun, soak it all in."

Figueroa was hitting .299 at Durham this season. Rays manager Joe Maddon has watched him play during Spring Training and has been impressed by the former University of Florida infielder.

"I think Cole Figueroa is a really good baseball player," Maddon said. "I sent him out this year [during Spring Training] and again I told him, and I meant it, that 'You're a big league baseball player.'

"I like his tools. I like his abilities a lot. He's a bright player. A smart baseball player. He was going to make the Major Leagues at some point. It just happened a little bit sooner based on the situation."

Though Figueroa has spent a good bit of time in Major League camp with the Rays, he noted that being in the Major Leagues is different.

"Spring Training to regular season, it's a totally different outlook on how I go about it," Figueroa said. "It's just one of those things you can't describe until you're walking into the stadium and you're like, 'Wow, you've made it after all this time.'"

Figueroa left Wednesday's Durham game after the first inning, receiving hugs and well wishes from his teammates. All the while he wondered in the back of his mind if he actually would join the team. Earlier this week, left-hander Enny Romero headed to Seattle to join the team only to be re-routed back to Durham once he got to Detroit. Once he got the final word that Zobrist had officially gone on the disabled list, he managed to relax a little bit.

"I definitely wasn't expecting [the promotion]," Figueroa said. "There are plenty of guys who are deserving and obviously on the roster. I'm just glad they're giving me a chance to do something up here. And, hopefully, I can show them that they made the right decision, and I think I will."

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

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