TAMPA, FL. – Fans truly have needed a scorecard to identify who is in the Rays bullpen. Thanks largely to a rash of injuries, an incredible 26 pitchers have trotted out of the ‘pen this season.
One would think that a relief corps decimated by injuries would prove to be a sore spot. On the contrary, as the Rays’ bullpen ERA of 2.98 leads the American League and is second in the majors to San Diego’s mark of 2.90.
In fact, in the last 27 games dating to July 7, the bullpen’s ERA is an eye-opening 1.51. That stat is all the more impressive when considering Pete Fairbanks, Jeffrey Springs and J.P Feyereisen have since been shelved with various ailments, and the reliever that was the team’s leader in saves with 14, Diego Castillo, was dealt to Seattle.
Because of the seemingly constant shuffle of arms, the Rays went into last weekend’s series at Baltimore with just two relief pitchers who were with the team on opening day: Andrew Kittredge and Ryan Sherriff. The irony is the two of them have had seasons that are quite the contrast from each other.
Kittredge missed most of last season with a right UCL sprain, elected to become a free agent after the World Series, and signed a minor league deal with the Rays in December.
He made the team in spring training, earned a trip to the all-star game, and is the only member of the bullpen to have an uninterrupted season. By contrast, Sherriff left the team (personal reasons) during the season-opening series in Miami, was assigned to Triple-A Durham upon being reinstated May 11, and has had five stints with the big club.
While Kittredge and Sherriff have overcome their own hurdles, a few of their ‘pen mates have persevered to make the majors or prolong a career that appeared to be over.
JT Chargois was acquired from Seattle in the July 29 deal that sent Castillo to the Mariners. The 30-year-old right-hander played in Japan last year and considered a career change before the Mariners signed him as a free agent prior to spring training.
Chargois impressed the Rays when he faced them earlier this season in Seattle and since arriving in St. Pete has not allowed a run in four appearances.
Thirty-year-old Dietrich Enns made his Rays debut last Saturday in Baltimore.
The appearance was his first in a big-league uniform since pitching for the Twins in 2017 when the lefty appeared in his only previous two MLB games. Enns, who played for an independent league team in Illinois last year before signing with the Rays in August, was 6-2 with 2.44 ERA at Triple-A Durham, where he was primarily used as a starter.
Louis Head has had seven stints this season with the Rays, who signed him in February. It was on April 23, his 31st birthday, when the Rays added him to the active roster. He made his MLB debut two days later and has a 1.35 ERA in 14 games.
Head, who spent the first seven years of his professional career in Cleveland’s system, was sent to Durham on Sunday. He will likely be back again soon.
D.J. Johnson was acquired from the Indians along with outfielder Jordan Luplow at the trade deadline. The 31-year-old right-hander came to the Rays with 36 career appearances, 35 of them with Colorado in 2018-19.
He also pitched in Mexico and Japan and had two stints with an independent league team in Michigan. Johnson injured his right shoulder Sunday against the Orioles and will likely be the latest reliever to visit the IL.
While Matt Wisler is no stranger to MLB, keeping track of him has not been easy.
The 28-year-old right-hander spent his first two seasons (2015-16) in the Braves’ rotation, but the Rays are his seventh team in the past four years. He came to Tampa Bay from San Francisco with a career ERA of 4.99. In 22 appearances with the Rays his ERA is 2.05.
It is quite a collection of bullpen arms, for sure. In typical Rays fashion, however, they find a way to make the pieces fit.
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