ST. PETERSBURG — The Rays were happy to get veteran reliever Matt Wisler in a trade from the Giants on Friday.
Now they want to see if they can make him better.
The 28-year-old right-hander was designated for assignment Wednesday after going 1-2 with a 6.05 ERA in 21 appearances, though striking out 26 batters in 19-1/3 innings. He was much better for the Twins last year, going 0-1, 1.07 in 18 games (four starts), with 35 strikeouts in 25-1/3 innings.
Wisler has thrown his slider 90 percent of the time this season, and a low-90s fastball the rest.
“I think it’s one of those guys that we probably see some things that we like, and hopefully with some messages and maybe a change of scenery can get him going,” Rays manager Kevin Cash said. “We’re pretty high on his stuff.”
They must be, because adding Wisler limits their flexibility to make bullpen moves (unless they make a trade), as he is out of options and can’t be sent down without going through waivers.
Wisler was acquired, with cash (he makes $1.15 million), for Double-A lefty Michael Plassmeyer, who would have been eligible for the Rule 5 draft after the season.
Wisler will be added to the active roster Saturday, taking the place of lefty Ryan Sherriff, who was optioned to Triple-A after Friday’s game. To make room on the 40-man roster, the Rays designated for assignment catcher Deivy Grullon, who they had claimed on waivers in May for the second time this season.
Over seven seasons, Wisler, who has also been with the Braves, Reds, Padres and Mariners, is 20-30, 5.00 in 168 games with 61 starts.
The Rays, who are carrying 14 pitchers, are looking at another roster decision Sunday or Monday, as first baseman Ji-Man Choi continues to progress toward a return from the injured list.
Choi, out since June 2 with a left groin strain, felt good after batting eight times in an extended spring game Friday. He will have a further test Saturday playing the field. “Then we’ll see where we’re at,” Cash said. “But it sounds like he’s in a good spot.”
Souvenir for Taylor Walls
Rookie shortstop Taylor Walls seemed surprised to see the ball from his first big-league homer — acquired in a trade worked out by the team staff for an autographed bat — waiting for him in the clubhouse after Wednesday’s game. “Maybe I’ll get to meet (the fan who caught the ball) one day, say thank you,” Walls said. “So very, very blessed to have them give that to me.” Walls plans to buy a case and build a shelf for his keepsakes. Also memorable was that his wife, Hallie, and 6-week-old daughter, Sutton Grace, saw the milestone at Tropicana Field. As did his brother, Austin. “It was nice to have them there to celebrate after the game,” Walls said.
• Cash said reliever Nick Anderson, out since the spring with an elbow sprain, is “throwing nice and easy ... but he’s still quite a ways away.” Of Oliver Drake, out since spring with a flexor strain, Cash said, “we’ve got some time to wait.” The team still expects both back at some point.
• The sixth inning featured a Tyler Wells-Taylor Walls matchup, with the O’s rookie pitcher striking out the Rays rookie shortstop.
• The Rays are 4-0 against the Orioles this season, 10-1 in their last 11, outscoring them 63-32.
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