BOSTON — Christian Bethancourt is becoming the Rays’ new not-so-secret weapon.
For the second time in a week, the Rays turned to their backup catcher to take a turn on the mound and close out a lopsided win. Most times when teams use a position player to pitch it’s because they are hopelessly behind late in a game and it doesn’t really matter how they do.
But Bethancourt, who was converted to pitching by the Padres for one season (2017), isn’t your normal mop-up man. Because of his ability to throw as hard as 95.1 mph and as slow as 40.8, and throw strikes, the Rays trust him to hold a lead, which allows them to save an inning from a reliever who can then be used another day.
Sunday, with the Rays leading Boston 12-4, he allowed just two singles in getting the final three outs, with 10 of his 12 pitches for strikes. On Aug. 23 vs. the Angels, he allowed two singles, struck out Luis Rengifo and threw 12 of 16 strikes. He also homered in that game and joked, “Now I know what it feels like to be (two-way star Shohei) Ohtani.”
“It’s amazing,” Rays manager Kevin Cash said. “I marvel at (him throwing) from 44 to 94 (mph) and he’s throwing strikes. … He’s got a knack for that. And we’re going to use him. … Certainly with September coming around.”
Bethancourt, who didn’t like being limited to just pitching with the Padres, said he is more than happy to help out in this role.
“Cash asked me if I wanted to (pitch Sunday), and I was like, ‘Yeah! I want to pitch in Fenway, like, just to do it,’” Bethancourt said. “It’s just another way to help the team and help to save the bullpen, save an arm for one inning, and I’ll be more than welcome to do it anytime they want. I’m just here for whatever they need me for.”
Rehab report: Fleming, Glasnow, Franco
Lefty Josh Fleming (oblique) was activated after a 6 ½-week injured list stint and optioned to Triple-A Durham, where he had been rehabbing. … On Sunday in Durham, Tyler Glasnow (elbow surgery) threw his third live batting practice session and is likely to throw one more Wednesday in advance of starting rehab games, the final step for a potential late-September return to the majors. … JP Feyereisen (shoulder) threw his live batting practice Saturday at Durham, with at least one more expected. … Wander Franco (right hand) is going to re-start his hitting progression Monday and likely continue treatments and workouts at Tropicana Field at least much of the week before resuming rehab games.
Sunday completed a stretch of 17 games in 17 days, with the Rays going 12-5. They have Monday and Thursday off, then two other days the rest of the season — playing 33 games in 34 days (with a doubleheader) Sept. 13 in Toronto. ... Second baseman Brandon Lowe is targeted for a Tuesday return, saying Sunday morning that his right elbow has felt progressively better since leaving Friday’s game after being hit by a pitch, but he was still working to get back his range of motion. … Sunday was the fourth time in franchise history the Rays had multiple players (Isaac Paredes, David Peralta) reach base five times in the same game. … The Rays are planning to keep their rotation in order through next Sunday, then decide whether to use Shane McClanahan on regular rest against the Yankees or mix in a bullpen day or a called-up starter.
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