Friday, May 25, 2018
Tampa Bay Rays

Rays cutting ties with reliever Heath Bell

NEW YORK — The Rays felt they had to do something to add a fresh arm to their bullpen Sunday, and they felt the right thing to do was to dump veteran RHP Heath Bell and hang on to RHP Josh Lueke.

RHP Nathan Karns was called up for the day Sunday but will be replaced by a reliever — RHP Brad Boxberger, anyone? — when the Rays resume play Tuesday.

The decision to designate Bell for assignment was an expensive one, as the Rays are paying $5.5 million of his $9 million salary and are responsible for the remaining $4.4 million unless he is traded or, less likely, claimed on waivers.

But manager Joe Maddon said the organization remains confident that Lueke, who has failed repeatedly in high-leverage situations, can become an effective reliever.

"We still see a pretty good upside with him," Maddon said. "We still think if he gets everything together we're going to be rewarded by that patience."

Lueke, 29, hasn't shown it so far, posting a 4.82 ERA in a team-high 16 appearances, giving up a major-league reliever-most 25 hits and allowing eight of 11 inherited runners to score.

Bell, 36, wasn't any better, with a 7.27 ERA and .320 opponents' average, but there was still considerable surprise in the clubhouse because of how hard he tried and how much he cared. Also, how after pitching 21/3 innings Friday he was willing to work the final inning Saturday to help the shorthanded pen.

"I couldn't believe that," RHP Joel Peralta said. "I wasn't seeing that coming. It's actually bad to see that happen because he was really good to us in the bullpen."

Maddon said he talked to Bell late Saturday night to explain the situation, and he took it professionally and on Sunday morning sent him a complimentary text message.

"Hopefully he'll sign on with somebody else and I think he'll have a really good year as it all closes out," Maddon said.

The Rays acquired Bell and C Ryan Hanigan in a December three-way trade with the Reds and D'backs in which they gave up minor-league OF Todd Glaesmann (who retired) and Class A RHP Justin Choate.

HIS KIND OF TOWN: OF Wil Myers doesn't seem to like all the attention, but he sure likes playing in New York. Myers extended his hitting streak at Yankee Stadium to include his first 13 games. That's the longest such career-starting streak by any visiting player against the Yankees at any of their home stadiums, per the Elias Sports Bureau, since 1912-13, when Washington's Eddie Foster hit in his first 17 at Hilltop Park and the Polo Grounds.

ARCHER'S WAY: RHP Chris Archer is very much a product of routine, so even though the Rays are off today he will be at the Trop to go through his normal day-before-a-start routine, which includes a light throwing session in which he visualizes the opposing hitters. And if there's no one around to catch him, that's fine, too.

"I can throw against a wall and get the same thing accomplished," he said. "I don't have to physically see the result, I have a pretty good imagination when it comes to baseball and visualizing myself."

MATTER OF TIME: From the opener of Thursday's doubleheader, the Rays played five games — and 50 innings — in a little more than 75 hours.

DAY OF REST: Maddon felt 3B Evan Longoria needed a break, so he used him at DH for the first time this season, and he gave struggling 2B Ben Zobrist — in a 1-for-22 funk — the day off in advance of today's team off day.

MISCELLANY: The Rays knocked out CC Sabathia in the fourth, beating him for the 13th time in his 24 starts against them as a Yankee. … The Rays won consecutive series for the first time. … While going 5-5, they blew 10 leads during the road trip.

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