Jake Cronenworth is the Rays latest two-way experiment

Having pitched in college at Michigan, Cronenworth was asked in spring about trying it again and made his debut Saturday at Triple-A.
Jake Cronenworth, shown during spring training 2018, can do a lot for the Rays. [MONICA HERNDON | Times]
Jake Cronenworth, shown during spring training 2018, can do a lot for the Rays. [MONICA HERNDON | Times]
Published May 19, 2019

NEW YORK - The Rays have another two-way experiment player in the works, using Triple-A infielder Jake Cronenworth as a pitcher, with a scoreless one-inning debut Saturday.

Cronenworth pitched regularly in college at Michigan (posting a 3.34 ERA in 55 games), and the Rays brought up the idea during spring training of going back to doing both.

So while Cronenworth has been playing, and quite well, hitting .367 mostly at shortstop for the Bulls, he also has been working on the mound.

He was the opener for Durham on Saturday, hitting 94-96 mph, striking out one and walking two. He has a swing-and-miss quality curveball.

“He’d been throwing some bullpens, throwing some live BPs, his stuff has graded our pretty well,’’ manager Kevin Cash said. "It would be a nice weapon if it clicks. Interesting to see how that develops.'’

The potential to have an infielder who can go to, or come off, the mound would further increase the roster flexibility the Rays so highly value.

“I think we’re a long way from him being that guy, but that’s exactly how it would play out,’’ Cash said. “What a weapon to have if you trust in the defense at short, the bat, and then obviously him on the mound.’’

Rays infielder Brandon Lowe faced Cronenworth when playing collegiately at Maryland, remembering him as having good stuff. Infielder Andrew Velazquez has seen him throw enough to say Cronenworth has "some fuel” and ‘he’s one who can do it.’’

The Rays have at least two other two-way players in the minors, highly touted Brendan McKay, who may be pitching his way to the majors later this season while also DH-ing at Double-A, and Tanner Dodson, who pitches and plays outfield with the Class A Stone Crabs.

Cronenworth was a seventh-round pick in 2015.