ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. – The Rays did not acquire David Peralta with 2023 in mind. Rather, the veteran outfielder, who will be a free agent after this season, was brought on board to provide an immediate jolt to what too often has been a young and overmatched lineup.
Any thought about the Rays, who are 3-7 since the all-star break and hold a 1.5-game lead over the Guardians for the third and final American League wild card spot after losing two of three to them over the weekend, simply attempting to keep their head above water until players return from the injured list over the next several weeks went out the door as Peralta walked through it and into the Rays clubhouse.
The team’s newest addition was in the lineup Sunday, 24 hours after being acquired from the Diamondbacks.
While he cannot do it alone, the expectation is that Peralta, a career .283 hitter with an .803 OPS, will provide much-needed impact to a lineup that hopefully includes Wander Franco, Manny Margot and Harold Ramirez later this month or early September.
In addition, the pitching staff could receive a boost from the return of at least a couple of players among a group that includes J.P. Feyereisen, Nick Anderson, Yonny Chirinos, JT Chargois, Josh Fleming and Matt Wisler, who went on the injured list last week. Tyler Glasnow is a long shot to return, but the possibility exists.
There is no telling how effective any of them might be, especially Anderson, Chirinos and Glasnow, who have not pitched this season. That is why the Rays’ brain trust, led by general manager Peter Bendix, may acquire a pitcher or two by the time the clock strikes six o’clock Tuesday.
Again, as the acquisition of Peralta signaled, the Rays have no interest in sitting still. How much further they move is something we will know by early Tuesday evening.
Peralta’s presence: Peralta made his Tampa Bay debut in Sunday afternoon’s 5-3 loss to Cleveland. Wearing his customary No. 6 – Taylor Walls switched to No. 0 — he went 1-for-4 with a single to lead off the eighth inning. Acquired Saturday afternoon from Arizona in return for minor league catcher Christian Cerda, Peralta started in left field, which he has primarily played during his nine-year career in the majors. He batted fifth between Randy Arozarena and Isaac Paredes. Arozarena started in right for the first time this season. He has made 78 starts in left.
“We told (Peralta) there could be some late-game situations where we push him over to right and expressed how we use the DH, which is really revolving,” said manager Kevin Cash, prior to Sunday’s game. “He’s a guy that wants to play, and he’ll play a lot for us.”
Peralta, who turns 35 on August 14, was hitting .248 with 12 homers, 41 RBI and a .776 OPS in 87 games with Arizona. He has twice hit .300, including a career-high .312 in 2015. He hit a career-high 30 homers in 2018.
“I think he is a presence that we can plug into the lineup to help with some of the pressure that’s maybe on some of the young guys,” said Cash.
Tough demotion: To make room on the active roster following the acquisition of Peralta, the Rays optioned Jose Lowe to Triple-A Durham. Cash expressed that it was not easy telling the 24-year-old that he was being sent down, but it was a sensible move given a logjam in the outfield and that Lowe had minor-league options remaining.
“He is such a priority for us and he has to go down there and play every day,” said the manager. “That’s the honest message. I know that he was trending in the right direction, and I give him a lot of credit. He has worked very hard with Chad Mottola in the cage. I think Josh learned a lot from the first time he came up to the second time.”
Lowe hit safely in 12 of his last 13 games. During that stretch he was batting .326 (15-for-46) and raised his average from .187 to .221. After making the opening day roster, Lowe was sent to Durham on May 2 and recalled June 20.
To make room on the 40-man roster, pitcher Angel Perdomo was designated for assignment Saturday. He was claimed off waivers from Milwaukee on July 19 and appeared in three games with Durham.
Rare rough outing: Shane McClanahan’s streak of 13 consecutive starts of six-plus innings, six-plus strikeouts and two earned runs or less came to an end against Cleveland on Sunday. The lefty, who had the second-longest such streak in MLB history (Randy Johnson, 1999) went 4 1/3 innings for his shortest outing since also going 4 1/3 innings against Baltimore on opening day. That was a much different circumstance as pitchers were getting stretched out through much of April following a shortened spring training.
The five runs (all earned) McClanahan allowed are the most he has yielded in his career. He allowed four runs in four of his previous 44 starts and four earned runs three times.
“That’s how humbling the game of baseball is,” said McClanahan, whose ERA rose from 1.76 to 2.07. “Things have been going right for so long that one of these days (a tough outing is) going to sprinkle in. Ultimately, it’s up to me to keep working hard and put myself in a good spot for my next start.”
B-Lowe’s bat: In 12 games since returning from a lower back injury that cost him exactly two months, Brandon Lowe is hitting .340 (16-for-47) with a .945 OPS. Among his hits are a pair of homers and four doubles.
“It’s nice to have him back and I think the at-bats are only going to get better with more reps,” said Cash.
Lowe, who had a pair of doubles and drew a walk Sunday, has raised his average from .212 at the time he went on the IL to the .248 he takes into Tuesday night’s game against Toronto at the Trop.
On tap: The Rays have a two-game series with Toronto at the Trop beginning Tuesday night. There will be a quick turnaround as Wednesday’s game is a matinee with first pitch at 12:10. The Blue Jays occupy the top wild card spot, three games ahead of the Rays.
The Rays fly to Detroit for a four-game series against the Tigers beginning Thursday evening. Following a day off Monday, they head to Milwaukee for a two-game interleague series beginning next Tuesday.