ST. PETERSBURG — When the Rays acquired Drew Rasmussen from the Brewers just about a year ago, they weren’t clear on exactly what they were going to do with him.
Though he had been part of the Brewers bullpen since early in the abbreviated 2020 season, the Rays initially sent him to Triple-A Durham for a few weeks.
He was called up in June and used primarily as a multi-inning reliever, taking two turns as an opener.
In mid-August, due to a convergence of circumstances capped by Ryan Yarbrough being sidelined due to COVID-19, Rasmussen — a starter in college and the low minors — stepped into the rotation.
And all he has done since is excel.
Wednesday was the latest example, as Rasmussen worked five shutout innings in the Rays’ 6-1 win over the Tigers.
“(I’m) happy, that’s a really good way to put it,” Rasmussen said. “Things have worked out really well since getting over here, and I couldn’t be happier to be here. The opportunity I’ve been given is a blessing, and so I thank the Lord every day for getting traded over here and how things are going.”
In 16 starts since joining the Rays’ rotation full time Aug. 12, Rasmussen is 7-1 with a 1.90 ERA, and the team 13-3 in those games.
Wednesday was another impressive outing.
He scattered four hits. He struck out seven. He didn’t walk any, which made him most proud. He got a career-high 20 swings-and-misses in throwing 61 of 87 pitches for strikes. He mixed his cutter, sweeping slider, fastball and a couple of curveballs well.
In doing so, Rasmussen matched a team mark held by former All-Stars Scott Kazmir (2008) and Chris Archer (2015), posting his fifth straight start of five or more innings while allowing one or no runs.
“Yeah, he’s been pretty spectacular,” Rays manager Kevin Cash said. “The performance, the build-up, getting there, the efficiency — even though his pitch count got driven up a little bit (Wednesday). That’s why he only went five innings, but not nitpicking at all.
“He’s really, really good at limiting damage, and he’s excelled in this role as a starter. I think we’re fortunate that we had the opportunity to build him up last year. He had some reps at it before with the Brewers, and then he went to the relief role. But keeping that two-inning, three-inning outing as a reliever probably helped him to where this has become a little easier for him.”
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Though the Rays are cautious about Rasmussen’s workload since he has had two Tommy John elbow surgeries, he has shown no reason for concern. He is constantly working to improve, going through a regimented routine each day.
And he is always quick to credit others — his catcher (Francisco Mejia on Wednesday) for calling a good game, the coaches and staff for the prep work and reports — for his success, with a 4-1, 2.33 record this season.
”They’ve worked really hard to help me fine-tune my stuff and my command, and then on top of it, they put together a really good scouting report,” Rasmussen said. “I always have confidence going into a game. Confidence is key, especially in this league. So when you’re confident, you have a chance to do some pretty good things.”
Even better on Wednesday, the Rays grabbed an early lead, scoring three runs before Detroit starter Eduardo Rodriguez got an out — his only one, as he left due to left side soreness. And they added on as infielder Isaac Paredes homered twice against his former team, improving to 23-15, matching their season high of eight games over .500.
J.P. Feyereisen, the other pitcher acquired with Rasmussen in the trade for shortstop Willy Adames and reliever Trevor Richards, worked the ninth, posting his 15th consecutive scoreless outing, a team record to start a season.
“You want to talk about a win-win, when both sides are happy,” Rasmussen said. “It’s really hard to complain.”
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