Sunday, September 23, 2018
Tampa Bay Rays

Rays journal: Rays talking with Tigers about lefty reliever Justin Wilson

OAKLAND, Calif. — The Rays are looking at a number of options to improve their bullpen. And the sure-to-be-selling Tigers are fielding calls from many teams.

That said, Detroit LHP Justin Wilson appears to be near or at the top of the Rays' list, and they have enough interest to engage in talks that were said Monday to have some traction.

Whether the Rays will be willing to give up the premium prospect(s) needed to outbid what could be a large field of competitors may be the key. And there could be a tradeoff in how highly they value Wilson compared to other options that may be easier to get, such as Pittsburgh's Tony Watson. They are also known to have interest in San Francisco RHP Hunter Strickland and possibly Philadelphia RHP Pat Neshek. San Diego LHP Brad Hand could be another if the high price drops.

But there is good reason for Wilson to be their top choice.

He is 29, has a modest salary ($2.7 million), would be under their control via arbitration in 2018 and is versatile in being able to handle right-handers as well.

He also has been very good this season, with a 2.29 ERA over 37 games and 50 strikeouts and 12 walks in 351/3 innings, averaging 96 mph with his fastball. Since taking over as the Tigers closer he has recorded 10 saves.

Welcome to the show …

RHP Andrew Kittredge got a little bit of misdirection from Triple-A manager Jared Sandberg before getting the news Sunday night of his first promotion to the majors. Sandberg called Kittredge into his office and said he needed Kittredge's bag-check receipts from his trip last week to the Triple-A All-Star Game so he could get him reimbursed. "Then he said, we need an address where to send the check," Kittredge recalled. "I said, I don't know, just send it to the clubhouse. He said, 'Well that's the problem, you're not going to be in the clubhouse, you're going to Oakland.' " Kittredge, 27, said he had an inkling where the conversation was headed, but once Sandberg's words sunk in, "I was pretty speechless afterward. That was the craziest thing, I didn't know what to say."

… And now that you're here

The willingness to be aggressive and ability to throw strikes is what earned Kittredge the promotion over some candidates who had been in the majors, and the Rays are banking on more as they use him primarily against right-handers. "We want to find out about this guy," manager Kevin Cash said. "One thing I really like about Kitt is the value of just the strike-throwing. He comes in and attacks the strike zone with a fastball-slider combo." In 52 innings over 30 Triple-A games, Kittredge, 27, logged 54 strikeouts with 12 walks.

Ramos out again

C Wilson Ramos was out of the lineup for the third game since tweaking his left hamstring Friday. He had hoped to play Monday but said he is now aiming for tonight. Cash said Ramos, who debuted June 24 after rehabbing from right knee surgery, is "getting better, getting closer."

Number of the day

9 Players, once Kittredge pitches, to make their big-league debuts this season for the Rays, second most behind the Reds and Yankees (11): INF Daniel Robertson; Ps Jose Alvarado, Jake Faria, Chih-Wei Hu, Adam Kolarek, Austin Pruitt, Ryne Stanek and Hunter Wood.

Miscellany

. After being called out on strikes in the fourth, 2B Tim Beckham kept complaining as he took his position and was ejected by home plate ump Lance Barrett. With Brad Miller at DH, the Rays had to put Trevor Plouffe at second. He last played there in 2012.

. Plouffe didn't do all that well in his 2½ months with Oakland, hitting .214 with a .634 OPS, before being DFA'd and traded to the Rays, but felt he could have gotten more of a chance before being ditched as the start of a youth movement. "I thought they pulled the plug a little quick," Plouffe said. "I went on a little skid there, I was 0-for-24, obviously that's not good, but people go through those."

. DH/1B Rickie Weeks (right shoulder, hand) joined Durham to start working out in advance of beginning a rehab assignment, which could start tonight.

. Playing first base in his second pro game, top draft pick Brendan McKay went 0-for-4 with a walk for short-season Class A Hudson Valley.

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