The Rays placed Oliver Drake, one of their most dependable relievers, on the injured list Sunday amid a flurry of moves.
Manager Kevin Cash said Drake, a right-hander who is very effective against lefties, was having some issues with biceps tendinitis. The team felt it was better to let him build back up at his own pace than try to do so around game usage.
“Missing some time in the summer camp, I don’t know if we were able to get him the proper build-up,” Cash said. “He hasn’t quite felt right. He’s dealing with a little bit of a bicep tendinitis. ...
“He’s so important to us, rather than try to work him back in a very controlled setting when our pitching is already pretty taxed, let’s do right by him and allow him the proper build-up to get his arm and everything, conditioning, ready to go.
“We saw what he did last year, he was a guy as much as anybody in the bullpen, could take the ball on back to back nights, provide multiple innings,” Cash continued. “We’re just not there yet. This biceps tendinitis thing, let’s let that calm down and see where we are in 10 days with him.”
The Rays also:
* recalled rookie righty reliever Ryan Thompson
* selected the contract of right-hander John Curtiss, who had been with them since spring training on a minor-league deal
* activated outfielder Manuel Margot, who had been on the bereavement and then COVID-19 injured list (for intake testing) following the death of his father and a trip home to the Dominican Republic
* designated for assignment catcher Kevan Smith and reliever Sean Gilmartin.
Cash said the moves to add Thompson, the sidearming rookie who started Game 2 of Saturday’s doubleheader as the “29th man” call-up, and Curtiss were made because “we do need arms. Curtiss and Thompson both were impressive throughout spring training and summer camp."
Curtiss, 27, pitched previously in the majors with the Twins and Angels and has been throwing in the 94-97 mph range with a breaking ball.
“He’s a guy we will count on to provide some innings today, and we felt once we saw him pitch throughout the spring trainings, this is a guy that could help us and now he’s going to get an opportunity to do that.”
Cash said the decision to drop Smith, who had been serving as their third catcher, “was a difficult one. He’s a big-league catcher, there’s no doubt about it. He’s a guy that was going to help us, but our pitching got so jammed up we had to make those decisions. For him, I hope he gets to the big leagues. If he doesn’t, we gladly want him back, because we know at some point we’re going to need that third catcher.”
Cash said they view the situation similarly with Gilmartin, who was called up and worked 3-1/3 innings in the first game of the doubleheader, allowing them to save other relievers for the nightcap. If he doesn’t get picked up elsewhere, they would like to keep him.
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Without Smith, the Rays’ top internal option if they need a third catcher would likely be prospect Ronaldo Hernandez, a 22-year-old who has not played above Class A.
“We’ve got a lot of positive vibes on Ronaldo,” Cash said. “Not sure if this is the most ideal situation for him right now to be put in that position, but either way you’re always concerned about your depth, especially at that position.”
Margot was placed on the bereavement list following the Tuesday death of his father. He was then placed on the COVID-19 injured list following his return from the Dominican Republic while he underwent testing. He is in the lineup today, with Cash saying the Rays hope the return to normalcy helps Margot deal with his grief.
“A lot has taken place for Manny here, and we’re sensitive to that,” Cash said. “Maybe playing and getting back into the flow of baseball will help ease his mind. I don’t think any of us can imagine or fully appreciate what he’s going through, the travel he just went through and what he had to experience. It’s been a tough couple days for Manny, and we’re going to try to be really, really good teammates for him.”
Cash also said lefty reliever Jose Alvarado was “likely” to be reinstated from the paternity list on Monday.
Here is the Rays’ lineup, as they seek their third win in the four-game series with the Yankees, facing lefty James Paxton:
And here is the lineup for the Yankees, who earlier Sunday placed Giancarlo Stanton on the injured list with a left hamstring strain: