Make us your home page

Get the quickest, smartest news, analysis and photos from the Bucs game emailed to you shortly after the final whistle.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Tampa Bay Rays prospect Jake McGee fully recovered from Tommy John surgery, may be headed for bullpen

ST. PETERSBURG — LHP Jake McGee remembers two years ago when he and his buddy, RHP Wade Davis, were sitting side-by-side in lockers at Progress Energy Park during their first spring training.

They were two of the Rays' top prospects and expecting to soon compete for spots in the big-league rotation.

But while Davis was making a splash late last season with his first big-league starts, McGee was still working his long way back from Tommy John elbow reconstruction surgery in July 2008.

Now, McGee feels he's back to 100 percent. He said he's throwing 95 mph, and his changeup is better than ever. The Sparks, Nev., native is eager to show just that in spring training and said he's being told that the Rays would like to get him some work as a back-of-the-bullpen type guy.

"I'd like that role a lot, actually," he said. "Just the adrenaline going out and knowing I have only one inning for three outs. Pitch for pitch, I can give it all I got."

Though Rays executive VP Andrew Friedman said they haven't given up on McGee as a starter, he acknowledges he has "the upside to pitch really well in the back part of a game." No one is anointing McGee the future closer; it's too early to predict that. But McGee is willing to give the bullpen a shot.

"This will be a defining year for Jake," said Mitch Lukevics, Rays director of minor-league operations. "Depending on how he does and how he responds will determine his role in the future."

Lukevics, who worked for years in the Yankees minor-league system, noted that Mariano Rivera had to overcome a similar injury earlier in his career. Rivera entered the big leagues as a starter but has turned into a future Hall of Fame closer.

Lukevics said he's not comparing Rivera to McGee, who has yet to throw a pitch in the big leagues, just pointing out that pitchers can come back from Tommy John surgery stronger than before. "It's not a death sentence anymore," he said.

McGee, who returned in July and made 16 minor-league starts, said he has gotten over one of the biggest hurdles: the mental one of not worrying about it happening again, as he's throwing the ball free and easy, without fear.

And he is still using his friend, Davis, as motivation. "I know I'm going to get there eventually," McGee said. "I just had a setback, and I knew if I would have been healthy, I'd be doing the same stuff he was doing. We've been at the same level every year and fed off each other. ..He's succeeding up there and I know I can do it, too."

PROSPECT WATCH: With two of the Rays' top prospects, OF Desmond Jennings and RHP Jeremy Hellickson, recently added to the 40-man roster, the question is: When will they break onto the big-league roster?

Lukevics said though both had great 2009 seasons, they could use some more seasoning in the minors. But Lukevics said Hellickson progressed further than he expected, especially in improving his changeup (which "became a factor"), and he wouldn't be surprised if the right-hander makes an impact at some point next season.

RAYS RUMBLINGS: The Rays have continued discussions with free-agent C Gregg Zaun, who has received interest from several other teams. … Tampa Bay is in talks with former major-league OF Rob Ducey about a potential scouting position; Ducey is formerly a scout with the Blue Jays. … Ben Zobrist's eight-place finish in the American League MVP voting was the highest ever for a Ray. Carlos Peña was ninth in 2007 and 2008, and Evan Longoria took 11th in 2008. … OF Jon Weber, who spent the past three years in the Rays minor-league organization, has reportedly signed a minor-league deal with the Yankees.

Joe Smith can be reached at

Tampa Bay Rays prospect Jake McGee fully recovered from Tommy John surgery, may be headed for bullpen 11/28/09 [Last modified: Sunday, November 29, 2009 12:38am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Ole Miss football coach Hugh Freeze resigns over 'inappropriate conduct' (w/ video)


    OXFORD, Miss. — Mississippi coach Hugh Freeze was at Jackson Country Club on Wednesday night, giving his yearly rah-rah speech about the Rebels overcoming adversity and getting ready for the college football season.

    If Hugh Freeze hadn’t resigned, Ole Miss says it would have fired him for violating his contract’s moral turpitude clause.
  2. Fennelly: With playoff chase in high gear, it's time for Rays to make a move

    The Heater


    Thursday was an off-day for the Rays, who are coming off a solid western swing. I assume there was no rest for the tag-team Rays baseball brain trust of Matt Silverman, Erik Neander and Chaim Bloom, whose job it is to improve this team in advance of the trade deadline. They've done a good job …

    Evan Longoria is glad to see the Rangers coming to town: He’s batting .296 against them with 15 homers and 56 RBIs in 69 career games.
  3. Rays vs. Rangers, 7:10 p.m. Friday, Tropicana Field

    The Heater

    Tonight: vs. Rangers

    7:10, Tropicana Field

    TV/radio: Fox Sports Sun; 620-AM, 680-AM (Spanish)

    PORT CHARLOTTE, FL - FEBRUARY 18:  Alex Cobb #53 of the Tampa Bay Rays poses for a portrait during the Tampa Bay Rays photo day on February 18, 2017 at Charlotte Sports Park in Port Charlotte, Floida.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
  4. Good news for Rays on Steven Souza Jr. as MRI shows 'no damage' to hip


    The Rays got good news today on RF Steven Souza Jr., as an MRI showed "no damage" to his left hip.

    Steven Souza Jr. #20 of the Tampa Bay Rays holds his leg after hurting himself trying to steal second base in the first inning against the Oakland Athletics at Oakland Alameda Coliseum on July 19, 2017 in Oakland, California.
  5. Bucs raise prices for single tickets to marquee games


    The Bucs will have single-game tickets for 2017 home games on sale July 28, with a new wrinkle: the best games will cost more for fans.

    Bucs fans cheer Jameis Winston after a victory in their final home game of the 2016 season. Individual tickets for the Bucs' three most coveted home games (against the Patriots, Bears and Giants) will cost more in 2017.