Saturday, January 20, 2018
Tampa Bay Rays

Rays call up Cole Figueroa

ANAHEIM, Calif. — Walking into Angel Stadium on Thursday was the relaxing part of INF Cole Figueroa's first promotion to the big leagues.

Being congratulated in the dugout Wednesday night after being pulled from Triple-A Durham's game was chaotic and a bit awkward because he didn't know for sure whether he'd join the team. The Rays weren't going to decide until Thursday whether 2B Ben Zobrist would go on the DL after dislocating his left thumb.

Spending most of Thursday on airplanes made Figueroa nervous that he'd find out he was making the trip for no reason. But the text message waiting for him when he landed that he indeed would be added to the roster calmed him. And he felt even better when he headed to the ballpark.

"It's just one of those things you can't really describe until you're walking into the stadium, and you're just like, 'Wow, you made it after all this time,' " Figueroa said. "Especially me, having to go through the numerous years of minor-league baseball. I just take it as paying a little dues."

Figueroa, 26, spent six-plus years in the minors after playing at the University of Florida, three with the Padres, then, after being acquired in the December 2010 Jason Bartlett deal, three-plus with the Rays.

Figueroa — whose father, Bien, played briefly in the majors and was a longtime pro coach — made a solid impression on manager Joe Maddon the past two springs. "When we sent him out … I told him — and I meant it — you're a big-league baseball player," Maddon said. "I like his abilities, his tools a lot. He (is) very bright."

Figueroa was hitting .299 at Durham, with three homers, 16 RBIs and a .397 on-base percentage. His ability to play second base and shortstop was a key part of the decision to promote him over other candidates, including Wilson Betemit and Vince Belnome, and Maddon said he will get opportunities, along with Sean Rodriguez and Logan Forsythe.

"Hopefully I can help out a miniscule bit while I'm here," Figueroa said. "See what happens, try to have some fun, soak it all in." The Rays had room for him on the 40-man roster, so no other corresponding move was necessary besides Zobrist going on the 15-day DL.

ARCHED DOWN: RHP Chris Archer starts tonight against the Angels, winless in his past four outings and frustrated by his inability to put hitters away with two strikes and stay out of big innings. "Every game is not going to be a scoreless outing, but you still want to go out there and compete and keep your team in the game, and I don't think I've been doing a great job of that the past couple weeks," Archer said. Fastball command and slider location have been issues. Maddon said they have also talked to Archer about improving his tempo; he averages a major-league-high 26.5 second between pitches. "Just get the ball and throw it, don't over think it," Maddon said. "Just go out there and permit your athleticism to go play."

PITCHING IN: RHP Alex Cobb's potential final test in his recovery from an oblique strain will come Saturday at Class A Port Charlotte when he makes a rehab start. Cobb is scheduled for five innings or 75 pitches, and if all goes well — and again in a bullpen session Monday — he is looking at rejoining the rotation May 22. … RHP Jeremy Hellickson, targeting a late June return from Jan. 29 arthroscopic elbow surgery, will throw bullpen sessions today and Monday in St. Petersburg, then may advance to batting practice.

MISC: A table of colognes and old-man aftershaves (Aqua Velva, Brut, Old Spice) was set up in the clubhouse for another round of "Who's Your Daddy's Scent for Success." … Wednesday was the fourth time in club history, and second this season, the Rays won back-to-back games scoring more than two runs in each.

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