ST. PETERSBURG — The Josh Lueke experiment has ended after the Rays designated the right-handed reliever for assignment Saturday. They have 10 days to trade, release or let him pass through waivers.
Lueke struggled this season, posting a 1-2 record with a team-worst 5.64 ERA and allowing seven home runs over 301/3 innings. But the Rays had kept him around to see if he could live up to the potential he showed at Triple-A Durham last year, when he had a 0.63 ERA, and because he was out of options.
"His stuff was actually pretty good," Rays manager Joe Maddon said, "but the results just weren't happening."
The results were perfect for Lueke's replacement Saturday. RHP Kirby Yates made his major-league debut in the seventh, retiring all four batters he faced and striking out two.
Yates found out about his promotion at about 1:30 Saturday morning, when Durham coaches pounded on the door of his apartment. He said he didn't fall asleep until after 5 a.m. — which might have kept him from getting too energized for the biggest game of his life.
"I wasn't really nervous," said Yates, a 27-year-old Hawaii native who signed after going undrafted in 2009. "I was just kind of having fun out there."
Yates allowed only one earned run and 10 hits over 21 appearances (0.36 ERA) while converting all 16 save chances for Durham this season.
KING FELIX: Rays hitters know today's starter, Felix Hernandez, well. The 2010 Cy Young winner, 28, threw a perfect game against them in 2012. Since then, he has struck out 356 and allowed only 122 runs over 4011/3 innings.
"Everybody looks at him as being this big, old power guy, but he really has a great feel to what he's doing," Maddon said. "That's what separates him."
ALL-STAR CAMPAIGN: Maddon has unofficially launched a campaign to get LHP Jake McGee to the All-Star Game.
Maddon praised his reliever for rebounding Friday, a day after giving up two runs to Miami. He struck out the side in his only inning, prompting Maddon to say he deserves All-Star recognition. He hasn't allowed a run in 26 of his 29 appearances, including one stretch of 15 in a row.
MEDICAL MATTERS: RHP Jeremy Hellickson (elbow) made his first rehab start in Tampa for the Class A Stone Crabs. He gave up two hits and a walk while striking out two batters over three shutout innings. He threw 25 of his 38 pitches for strikes and threw 10 more pitches in the bullpen.
Barring any setbacks, the Rays expect him to make two more rehab starts before rejoining the team for the doubleheader at Baltimore on June 27.
Ryan Hanigan (hamstring) started at catcher for the Stone Crabs and hit a two-run homer in the third. He finished 1-for-4 with a strikeout. He could DH for two or three more games and is eligible to return Wednesday.
DRAFT BREEZE: The Rays continued their college-heavy draft on the third and final day. In all, only six of their 41 picks were high school players. One was 11th-rounder Spencer Moran, a 6-foot-6 right-handed pitcher from Mountain View (Ariz.) High that the Rays had as their top target Saturday morning. The Rays added 1B Nic Wilson in the 24th round. He was fourth in Division I with 18 homers for Georgia State this year.
MISCELLANY: C Ali Solis' sacrifice bunt in the second was his first major-league RBI. … RHP Jake Odorizzi and 1B/OF Jerry Sands will sign autographs for children from 12:30 to 1 p.m. at the Trop.
Times staff writer Matt Baker can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Rays' draft picks
RD. PICKPOS. NAME SCHOOL
1. (20) 1B Casey Gillaspie Wichita State
2. (60) RHP Cam Varga Cincinnati Hills Christian Acad.
2. (72) RHP Brent Honeywell Walters State (Tenn.) CC
3. (96) LHP Brock Burke Evergreen (Colo.) High
4. (127) RHP Blake Bivens Danville (Va.) Washington High
5. (157) SS Michael Russell University of North Carolina
6. (187) C Mac James University of Oklahoma
7. (217) RHP Mike Franco Florida International
8. (247) 3B Daniel Miles Tennessee Tech
9. (277) RHP Chris Pike Oklahoma City University
10. (307) RHP Bradley Wallace Arkansas State
11. (337) RHP Spencer Moran Mountain View (Ariz.) High
12. (367) CF Braxton Lee University of Mississippi
13. (397) 2B Jace Conrad Louisiana-Lafayette
14. (427) LHP Trevor Lubking Pacific Lutheran University
15. (457) RHP Brian Miller Vanderbilt
16. (487) LHP George Maistso McLennan (Texas) CC
17. (517) LHP Steve Ascher New York-Oneonta
18. (547) SS Alec Sole St. Louis University
19. (577) RHP Justin McCalvin Kennesaw State
20. (607) RHP Kyle McKenzie Tulane
21. (637) LF Jaime Ayende-Morales Carlos Beltran Baseball Acad. (P.R.)
22. (667) LHP Ryan Pennell Elon University
23. (697) CF Zacrey Law Robinson (Texas) High
24. (727) 1B Nic Wilson Georgia State
25. (757) LHP Tyler Wells University of Nevada
26. (787) CF Cade Gotta San Diego Christian College
27. (817) 2B Grant Kay University of Louisville
28. (847) 3B Carter Burgess Sam Houston State
29. (877) RHP Tomas Michelson Illinois-Chicago
30. (907) RHP Trevor Dunlap University of Washington
31. (937) RHP Andrew Woeck North Carolina State
32. (967) CF Joshua Davis Union (Okla.) High
33. (997) RF Patrick Grady Lander (S.C.) University
34. (1,027) RF Christian Knott East Stroudsburg (Pa.) University
35. (1,057) LHP Kyle Bird Flagler College
36. (1,087) C Isias Alcantar Arkansas-Pine Bluff
37. (1,117) RHP Matthew Plitt Louisiana-Lafayette
38. (1,147) OF Chris DeMorais University of New Haven (Conn.)
39. (1,177) 1B Blake Grant-Parks Cal State-Monterey Bay
40. (1,207) RHP Conor Harber Western Nevada CC