TORONTO – The Rays biggest needs heading to Wednesday’s trade deadline seemed fairly widely acknowledged to be experienced help for the bullpen and a right-handed hitting run producer.
So, naturally, they traded Sunday for a left-handed hitting middle infielder, Eric Sogard, from the Blue Jays, which at least made it convenient.
And they couldn’t have sounded more pleased.
“I think he fits our team really well,’’ manager Kevin Cash said. “He’s another guy that you can kind of plug in different spots. You’re going to get really, really good defense throughout the infield. He plays outfield, he did it here recently. He’s really put (it) together at the plate this year too so that’s encouraging.’’
The Sogard deal, for two players to be named likely at the lower levels of the minors, was one of three the Rays made Sunday.
To clear 40-man roster space they shipped Hernando High product infielder Christian Arroyo, the primary return in the December 2017 Evan Longoria trade, and reliever Hunter Wood to the Indians for Class A outfielder Ruben Cardenas and $250,000 in international signing money.
And they sent reliever Ian Gibaut, designated for assignment last week, to Texas for a player to be named or cash considerations.
Sogard, 33, is likely to get most of his time at second base, with Joey Wendle, another lefty hitter, now freed to slide over more often to play shortstop in place of Willy Adames. Sogard helps fill the void from Brandon Lowe’s ongoing absence with that severe leg bruise.
Plus, Sogard can swing it, enjoying a career-best season, hitting .300 with 10 homers, 30 RBIs and an .840 OPS, and doing so in a needed contact style, striking out only 47 times in 323 plate appearances this season.
“He does little things that can really help you win games,’’ Cash said.
And he comes with some playoff experience and a reputation as a great teammate.
“He’s just a guy you like to have around,’’ said Wendle, a teammate in Oakland. “If you don’t like Eric Sogard, it’s your fault.’’
The logistics of the Sogard deal were interesting. He was scratched from the Jays lineup about 15 minutes before first pitch and spent the first few innings in the home dugout until he heard enough to start packing knowing the deal was happening, though it wasn’t announced for a few hours as medical reports were reviewed.
Sogard started packing with thoughts of flying out with his new Rays mates, but will join them Monday in Boston.
“ I’m excited,’’ he said. “Excited to be with a team in contention to make the playoffs. So I certainly hope I can bring to them what I’ve done here in Toronto. … Whatever opportunity comes, I’ll be ready for it.’’
Wood was one of the relievers who’s been shuttled in and out this season, and his 2.48 ERA seemed to make him a contributor to a bullpen that needs all the fresh arms it can get. Arroyo had dealt with injuries and inconsistent play much of his time with the Rays, and is currently on the injured list with a forearm issue. Cardenas, 21, is batting .284/.343/.475 w/ 10 HR, 54 RBI in 84 games at Class A Lake County. Gibaut, who made his debut earlier this month, was deemed expendable last week.
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The Rays in June drafted Sogard’s cousin, Nick, an infielder from Loyola Marymount, in the 12th round. He is currently playing for their short-season Class A Hudson Valley team.
Medical matters: Pham, Kiermaier, Garcia
Leftfielder Tommy Pham left the game in the seventh inning with what the team said was a right hand sprain, having slid into second and being thrown out trying to stretch a single in yet another baserunning mistake. Cash said x-rays were negative and they hope to have him back Tuesday. … Kevin Kiermaier (left thumb sprain) went 1-for-3 with a walk in the second of two rehab games and is expected to join the Rays in Boston and be activated when eligible Wednesday. …. Outfielder Avisail Garcia, who left Saturday’s game sick and dizzy, was said to be available Sunday and good to return Tuesday.
About Saturday night
Saturday’s stunning 10-9 loss after being up seven was a lot of things. It included the third time this season they allowed a game-tying homer with two outs in the ninth; the largest blown lead in a loss since 2013 (leading Jays 7-0 losing 8-7) and on the road since 2009 (leading Indians 10-0 losing 11-10); the fourth time they blew a six or more run lead in the eighth inning or later; the sixth time they blew a lead of four or more runs in the ninth inning or later and third in Toronto; the fourth time since 2008 they allowed six homers with the last three against the Jays.
Quote of the day
“It was like I was kind of sitting there thinking what team I should be cheering for in a way.’’
- Eric Sogard, on watching from the Jays dugout as trade to Rays was finalized.
Number of the day
Consecutive Rays batters retired by Jays pitchers – equivalent to a 10-inning perfect game – from Saturday to Sunday.
* Jake Faria was called up, caught a 6 a.m. flight from Durham to Toronto and pitched two innings, allowing three hits. Cash said improvements to his pitches and a slight increase in velocity should make him a good multi-inning option.
* Rookie lefty Brendan McKay is under consideration to be called up to start Wednesday in Boston.
* Travis d’Arnaud’s two-run double gave him 23 RBIs in July, the most by any Rays player in any month since Brad Miller had 26, and Evan Longoria 25, in August 2016.
Contact Marc Topkin at email@example.com. Follow @TBTimes_Rays.