ST. PETERSBURG — The Rays acknowledge they made things tougher on Josh Fleming by recently shifting his role from starter/scheduled bulk-inning pitcher to reliever after adding Drew Rasmussen and Chris Archer to the rotation.
But they also know the second-year lefty hasn’t pitched well since the All-Star break, posting a 8.81 ERA over eight games, including five starts, while allowing a whopping 52 hits and 13 walks in 31-2/3 innings.
As a result, they optioned Fleming, their leading winner with a 10-6 record, to Triple-A Durham on Monday.
It was part of a series of moves in which they also placed outfielder Brett Phillips on the 10-day injured list with a right ankle sprain, activated reliever J.P. Feyereisen (shoulder inflammation) from the injured list and called up lefty Dietrich Enns to add a fresh arm to the bullpen.
“(Fleming’s) had some disruption in his role, there’s no doubt that,” manager Kevin Cash said. “Between ‘Arch’ and other guys coming back and putting Drew Rasmussen in the rotation, it’s kind of jockeyed ‘Flem’ around from starter to reliever. That’s not ideal. We know that. He recognizes that.
“But saying that, over the last six weeks, we know he’s a better pitcher than maybe what he’s shown. And this will give him a chance to go hit the reset button, work on what’s made him good in the past, and then hopefully we see him soon.”
Fleming was given some specific issues to address and then will be transitioned to a long reliever role, where he can work up to three innings at a time and be available in a few days rather than five on a starter/bulk-inning routine.
“We’re going to get him to where he can bounce back a little quicker,” Cash said. “We just want to have something that we can pivot off of in two weeks, and let’s see what happens on the big league roster.”
More on Phillips, Feyereisen, Enns
Phillips said the ankle had been an issue for a few weeks and finally felt well enough that he had stopped taping it. Then Sunday, he jumped at the rightfield wall in Baltimore trying to rob Ryan Mountcastle of a home run and reinjured the ankle when he came down.
“It just felt like something tweaked a little bit,” Phillips said. “Went in, taped it up, what we’ve been doing, and after the game it was just flared up and super stiff.”
Phillips and Cash both said they are hopeful it will be a minimum stay but need to be sure, given that speed and defense are big parts of Phillips’ game.
Feyereisen missed six weeks — longer than Cash expected — but returned saying the shoulder issue was resolved. “It was definitely a good time for me to get back to square one and feel good about myself,” he said.
He looked good in his return, working 1-1/3 innings, allowing one hit and striking out two. Feyereisen was followed by Pete Fairbanks, who struck out the side in his first action since returning from the injured list Friday.
“Very good to have both of them back,” Cash said. “They bring just really good pitching towards our bullpen. We’ve got a lot of good pitching down there, but these guys are, Pete is special, J.P. is special. When they’re right, they can do some some great things.”
Enns was called up for the third time, having worked 7-2/3 innings over three games.
• Wander Franco delivered a two-run single in the eighth to extend his on-base streak to 30 games, matching Giants Hall of Famer Mel Ott for the fifth-longest for players 20 and under. Frank Robinson has the longest at 43. “Just a really impressive run, streak, that he’s on,” Cash said.
• Lefty Ryan Yarbrough will start on Tuesday, as the Rays decided after Monday’s game not to have him pitch behind an opener. The Red Sox did not announce a starter for what is expected to be a bullpen day.
• In improving to 83-48, the Rays reached a franchise-high 35 games over .500. They were 34 over on Sept. 24, 2008, at 96-62.
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