Thursday, May 24, 2018
Tampa Bay Rays

Needing bullpen help, Rays demote Cole Figueroa

ARLINGTON, Texas — The excessive work Rays relievers have had to handle over the past few days cost INF Cole Figueroa his spot on their bench.

Wanting to add an extra arm to the bullpen, the Rays called up RHP Brandon Gomes from Triple-A Durham. To make room on the 25-man roster, they sent down Figueroa, leaving them with eight relievers and only three position players in reserve.

Manager Joe Maddon made clear that Figueroa was essentially a victim of circumstance, he had played well in his first two stints in the majors and his contributions exceeded his .233 average and the 10 starts he made.

"We're kind of strapped right now. A lot of long games, Jake (McGee), everyone's been extended," Maddon said. "Going into (Wednesday) night's game, we had to protect ourselves.

"Sometimes people may get confused — Figgy's been doing great. There's not a thing wrong with Figgy. Figgy's been a very good major-league player. But this is how it has to work sometimes. You have to protect your bullpen, you have to protect your arms. So we have to play with one less player right now and bring another relief pitcher, so we did."

The Rays could have sent down a reliever, such as LHP Jeff Beliveau or RHP Kirby Yates, but Maddon indicated they preferred the short-term fix of adding Gomes, who may be needed only through tonight. Plus, he said, Beliveau and Yates have "both earned their stripes to be here right now."

Maddon also mentioned "the option situation," which seemed a reference to LHP Cesar Ramos, who walked in the winning run on four pitches in Tuesday's 3-2, 14-inning loss. But Ramos is out of options, so he can't be sent down without having to be offered, and potentially lost, on waivers.

Gomes, who pitched the final two innings Wednesday night, started the season with the Rays but was sent down in late May after a stretch in which he allowed four homers in five games. He was 0-2, 4.60 in 22 games for Durham with 34 strikeouts in 291/3 innings, reworking his mechanics and refining his repertoire under pitching coach Neil Allen, specifically making more use of his slider and less of his cutter.

"I've changed quite a few things mechanically," he said. "I'm throwing the slider more, I'm getting comfortable now, I feel good. Working with Neil we've looked at some video stuff, really simplifying, calming down my mechanics, which I think is going to help a lot."

NO D.J.: The spectacular running catch CF Desmond Jennings made just before crashing into the wall Tuesday turned out to be costly, as Jennings was out of the lineup Wednesday due to his left shoulder being "a little bit sore."

Maddon said "there's nothing awful," but there was some concern when Jennings took swings. They decided it was better to let him get treatment and increase the possibility he can return tonight.

ABOUT TUESDAY NIGHT: After taking a 2-0 lead and getting a strong start from RHP Jeremy Hellickson, the Rays ended up losing 3-2 in 14 innings and nearly five hours. RHP Joel Peralta gave the lead up in the seventh, the Rays wasted a prime opportunity with two on and no out in the 10th, and they lost when the Rangers loaded the bases on an error by 3B Evan Longoria, a ground ball single and a blooper over shortstop. Ramos walked Adam Rosales to force in the winning run.

MISCELLANY: Maddon offered condolences to the family of Jay Wolf, a Tampa man who was struck by a car and killed after leaving the stadium Tuesday. (See story, Section B.)… OF Wil Myers (right wrist) went 1-for-3 with two walks in his third rehab game for Durham. … The Rays caught a bit of a break when tonight's Rangers scheduled starter RHP Yu Darvish, who was 3-0, 1.00 in four starts against them, was placed on the DL and will be replaced by LHP Robbie Ross Jr.

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