ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. – The number of pitchers used in the above title does not include Brett Phillips who, after three appearances on the mound, might be an honorary member of the relief corps.
Injuries and roster shuffling brought upon by schedule demands and a trip north of the border have resulted in the Rays using 28 pitchers so far this season, which enters its second half Wednesday night.
Last weekend’s trip to Toronto, a four-day and five-game series, required some serious staff juggling. Cristofer Ogando, a 28-year-old righthander was the Rays’ 28th pitcher when he made his MLB debut Sunday (one inning, one run) after being selected from the taxi squad. He was returned to Triple-A Durham on Monday.
With relievers Ryan Thompson and Brooks Raley not permitted to make the trip to Toronto because of their vaccination status — visiting unvaccinated MLB players are still not allowed to cross the border to play in Toronto — Phoenix Sanders and Javy Guerra were summoned from Durham to fill the voids. The former made two appearances and threw three shutout innings against the Blue Jays, and the latter appeared once and allowed a run in his lone inning of work.
Thompson and Raley were reinstated and rejoined the team in Boston on Monday with Sanders and Guerra returning to Durham.
“The guys that came up, they did a nice job,” said manager Kevin Cash, who added their effort left the “bullpen in better shape” heading into the Boston series.
Starters Drew Rasmussen and Jeffrey Springs also returned to the team. Rasmussen started the second game of Saturday’s doubleheader against the Blue Jays after a strained hamstring forced him to miss three starts. He allowed one earned run in 4 2/3 innings (68 pitches) and did not get the decision in an 11-5 win.
Springs left to team to be with his wife and their five-month-old son, who was dealing with a health-related issue. The lefty, who missed a pair of starts, was on the mound Tuesday night in an 8-4 win over Boston. He did not figure in the decision after allowing three runs in four innings and 82 pitches.
With Springs having been activated prior to his start at Fenway, Josh Fleming was returned to Durham. Fleming was recalled prior to Monday’s game, when he followed opener Jalen Beeks and went five innings. He fared much better than his eight hits and four runs allowed (three earned) would suggest. He did not issue a walk, though he hurt himself by failing to field a potential double-play grounder with the bases loaded and no outs.
“I thought Fleming threw the ball really, really well,” said Cash. “Really happy with Josh and his performance.”
Fleming, who is 2-4 with a 6.17 ERA, was initially sent to Durham on May 7. He is 7-1 with a 2.36 ERA with the Bulls.
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Injury updates: To accommodate Ogando’s inclusion on the 40-man roster, J.P. Feyereisen was moved to the 60-day IL. The righthander reliever, who had not allowed an earned run in 22 appearances and was placed on the 10-day injured list June 3 with a shoulder injury, will not be able to return until at least early August…..Luis Patino had his fourth rehab start at Durham on Saturday cut short after three innings due to a blister on his right hand. According to Cash, the next steps will be determined when the blister heals…..On Sunday, reliever Pete Fairbanks (right lat) made his second rehab appearance, and first at Durham. If all goes well, he could be with the Rays by the all-star break.
Hit Streaks: Yandy Diaz went 3-for-4 Tuesday night against the Red Sox to extend his hit streak to 10 games. He is 18-for-38 (.473) during the streak, has seven multi-hit games and six of his 13 doubles. Diaz’s career-high hit streak is 11 games, which bridged the 2018 and 2019 seasons with Cleveland and Tampa Bay.….Wander Franco enters Wednesday night’s game on an eight-game hit streak during which he is 8-for-32 (.250). He has hit safely in nine of 10 games since returning from a quad injury. The one game he did not hit safely, June 28 against visiting Pittsburgh, he drove in a run on a sac fly.
Hot Harold: Harold Ramirez enters Wednesday night’s game having hit safely in 15 of the last 18 games in which he has at least one at-bat. He is hitting .383 (23-for-60) during his run, which has raised his average from .287 to .314. His average would be tied for fifth in the American League, though he is 24 plate appearances shy of qualifying.
Infield depth: Yu Chang was claimed off waivers from the Pirates on Monday. The 26-year-old, who made his MLB debut with Cleveland in 2019, has played all four infield positions. He is a career .204 hitter (373 at-bats) with 11 homers. In order to add Chang to the 40-man roster, Brandon Lowe (lower back) was transferred to the 60-day IL. That move does not alter Lowe’s timeline for returning, though Cash indicated the second baseman will not likely be back before the all-star break.
Up next: After they wrap up their three-game series at Fenway on Wednesday night, the Rays get a much need day off before opening a three-game series at Cincinnati on Friday. They return home Monday to start a four-game series against Boston, which will be followed by a three-game weekend series against the Orioles before the all-star break.