Friday, April 20, 2018
Tampa Bay Rays

Rays continue to send message with promotion of Juniel Querecuto

ST. PETERSBURG — Is this your Tampa Bay Rays again blazing a trail to baseball's newest market inefficiency — bringing in guys off the couch?

Not just any guys or any couch, mind you.

But for the fourth time in the past two weeks, the Rays are adding a player to their big-league roster who had already gone home, presuming his season was over, and plopped down to rest.

Infielder Alexei Ramirez was chilling in San Diego after being released by the Padres. Reliever Dana Eveland, twice designated for assignment, took it to the house in California after finishing the season at Durham. Outfielder Jaff Decker, the same in Az.

And today, Juniel Querecuto, coming on three flights all the way from Venezuela, will don a big-league uniform, No. 9, for the first time.

"It's very unusual to hear of one," reliever Danny Farquhar said, "and we've got four."

The move provides the Rays with badly needed middle infield depth. They were playing unusually shorthanded for roster-expanded September due to a spate of injures, with Nick Franklin the latest to go down.

And it gives Querecuto (care-uh-KOO-to) an undoubtedly thrilling opportunity, a few days after his 24th birthday, to make it to the majors — something his father never got close to during five years in the low end of the Blue Jays system — plus to earn some money and fame before going back to play winter ball.

After a solid spring with the Rays, Querecuto had what Double-A Montgomery manager Brady Williams said was "a very up and down season," one that didn't necessarily warrant this promotion, bouncing between the Biscuits and Bulls and hitting .241 with a .640 OPS while flashing some shiny leather.

As much as what he did and can do for the Rays, Querecuto's best credential is not being Tim Beckham or Taylor Motter.

If they didn't get the message about their bad attitudes and poor performances when not getting called up after the Durham season ended, or after the Rays signed Ramirez off the discard pile, well, they certainly did now. Boom! Pow! Bam!

Without saying anything about Beckham or Motter, manager Kevin Cash said a lot in explaining why they opted for Querecuto, beyond his versatility and familiarity from spring training.

"It's a good opportunity for a guy that's gone about it the right way," Cash said. "We emphasize pulling from our organization to kind of reward some of these guys that have done some good things in the Rays organization."

Clearly Beckham and Motter, who between them started 63 games on the infield, had not gone about it the right way.

And that was obvious to more than their bosses.

"You kind of make those decisions as a player, you kind of put yourself in a situation to have those things happen," veteran Evan Longoria said. "I think that goes back to kind of the early days of having Joe (Maddon) here, and just trying to create a culture again where winning is the most important thing, putting your teammates ahead of yourself is the most important thing, and being a good teammate.

"It's unfortunate that you have to sometimes make examples out of guys, or sometimes those messages have to be sent for the betterment of the group. It happened this year and hopefully those guys, Beckham and Motter don't really, it'll probably be hard — I would imagine if that was me, I'd be kicking myself knowing it was my own attitude or decisions that influenced those decisions — but hopefully they learn and grow from that and come into spring training ready to work and not upset still at those decisions."

Querecuto had something else going for him in getting that $5,000 plane ticket: His future is not as promising as Daniel Robertson's may be.

Robertson, 22, is a more highly rated prospect who had a better year at Durham. But there wasn't going to be much playing time for him, and wouldn't have been had Franklin not gotten hurt or Steven Souza Jr. have hip surgery, though there can be value in watching, too. Another (and perhaps wisely from the business side) is not starting his service time clock, which could save them a lot later if he were to turn into something special..

You would think Beckham and Motter would give the Rays a better chance to win than Ramirez and Querecuto, so maybe there's something to be said about putting your best team on the field for the integrity of the races.

But when Querecuto makes it from the couch to the Trop today, the Rays, who given the additional injuries could have had reason to go back on their decisions, will feel pretty good about the integrity of their clubhouse.

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