BALTIMORE — Pete Fairbanks is expected to rejoin the bullpen for Friday’s series opener against the Orioles, the first of what the Rays hope will be a parade of relievers returning from injury.
Fairbanks has been out since July 28 due to shoulder inflammation, the second time he has been sidelined this season for a shoulder issue. When active, the right-hander was 3-4, 3.48 with five saves, allowing 26 hits and 15 walks in 31 innings while striking out 37.
Fairbanks made two rehab appearances for Triple-A Durham, with one-inning outings Sunday and Tuesday.
Right-hander Louis Head was optioned to Durham on Thursday to make room. In 20 games over nine stints with the Rays, Head is 1-0, 3.16.
J.P. Feyereisen, similarly sidelined since late July with a shoulder issue, is also considered close to returning. Feyereisen has made five rehab appearances, including back-to-back games Saturday and Sunday and one-plus innings Tuesday for the Bulls.
Ryan Thompson, the third right-handed reliever rehabbing a shoulder issue, has been slowed by some discomfort. He was knocked out of Wednesday’s game with Durham after throwing just four pitches when he was hit by a comebacker on the right leg, but he is not expected to miss additional time.
Matt Wisler’s return from right middle-finger inflammation likely will be delayed until next week.
Also in the mix to join the Rays soon is veteran David Robertson, who signed as a free agent Aug. 16 after a stint with the silver medal-winning U.S. Olympic team. In 4⅔ innings over four games for Durham, the right-hander struck out 10 of the 18 batters he faced, allowing four hits (and a hit batter), no walks and one unearned run.
McClanahan’s learning curve
Rookie starter Shane McClanahan has been getting better as the season has gone on, and part of his development has been making more use of his curveball. McClanahan, the 24-year-old USF product who debuted in the 2020 playoffs, has relied primarily on his fastball and slider, with occasional use of the curve and changeup. But in four of his last five starts, he has thrown the curve at least 20 percent of the time, as much or more than the slider.
“I think it tells a lot about my evolution as a pitcher,” said McClanahan, who starts Friday at Baltimore. “Because I’ve always had that knock — even last year, I feel like — as a two-pitch guy. ... The curveball use has stemmed from just feeling comfortable with it and trusting it and getting good results with it.
“... I think it makes every single pitch better, to tell you the truth, because once I established that curveball, now they have to think of four different pitches I might throw. So they need to be ready for 98 or be ready for 81. It’s just one of those things, I think, that makes my stuff play up.”
Number of the day
Rays record this season against the Orioles, including 6-0 at Camden Yards.
• Reliever Andrew Kittredge on Tuesday was one pitch — and a foul ball at that — from an immaculate inning, striking out the side on nine pitches. It has been done 105 times in major-league history, including by three Rays: Rafael Soriano (2010), Brad Boxberger (1014), Jose Alvarado (2017).
• At 79-48, the Rays are 31 games over .500 for the first time since the penultimate day of the 2019 season. The team record is 34, at 96-62 in the final week of the 2008 season en route to a 97-65 finish.
• Outfielder Josh Lowe, the 2016 first-round pick, has a 20-homer/20-steal season at Triple-A Durham, the first there since Justin Ruggiano in 2007.
• Brent Honeywell, who made his big-league debut in April after dealing with repeated elbow issues since spring 2018, had his best start for Durham on Wednesday, working six shutout innings, allowing one hit.
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