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Cooper Criswell makes best of surprising second chance with Rays

Notes | The right-hander claimed on waivers from the Angels in July was summoned to make a start and did better than in his 2021 debut.
Rays pitcher Cooper Criswell works during the first inning of Monday's game against the Blue Jays in Toronto.
Rays pitcher Cooper Criswell works during the first inning of Monday's game against the Blue Jays in Toronto. [ FRANK GUNN | AP ]
Published Sep. 13

TORONTO — Cooper Criswell was a little surprised when he found out late Monday he was going to get a second chance in the big leagues, summoned by the Rays as a fill-in starter for the opening game of a key series against the Blue Jays.

He was both relieved and pleased with how it went, as he retired the first nine batters before allowing a walk and two hits that led to a run in the fourth inning. Certainly better than his first and only other appearance, knocked out in the second inning of an Aug. 27, 2021 start for the Angels after allowing three runs on six hits.

“It was just nice to get back out there,” Criswell said “Also, this time around I felt way more comfortable just being on the mound. My heart wasn’t beating through my chest.”

Criswell, 26, has pitched well at Triple-A Durham since the Rays claimed him off waivers from the Angels in July, going 1-0 with a 3.95 ERA in eight games.

The Rays needed a starter Monday because Ryan Yarbrough, who was slated to pitch bulk innings, was needed to throw five Sunday against the Yankees after Luis Patino’s poor start.

Criswell’s stay may be short. He was called up as the replacement for Brooks Raley, who is on the restricted list since he is unvaccinated, and the Rays can replace Criswell Tuesday with a fresher pitcher.

“He did a nice job, really nice job,” Rays manager Kevin Cash said. “Sinking it, big sweeping breaking ball. They didn’t make the adjustment until the second time through (the batting order).”

The Rays also called up four other pitchers: Javy Guerra and Kevin Herget joined the bullpen (taking spots vacated when Patino and Calvin Faucher were sent down), and Josh Fleming and Jimmy Yacabonis were added to the taxi squad.

Wander wonder

After Wander Franco was taken out of Sunday’s game in the fourth inning to “get him off his feet,” according to Cash, it was surprising the 21-year-old shortstop (who returned Friday from a two-month injured-list stint), wasn’t in the lineup Monday. Cash wouldn’t say why, other than to “just give him a day off.” He did say it had nothing to do with injury, be it Franco’s surgically repaired right hand or the leg issues that sidelined him earlier. “He feels good,” Cash said. Franco was on the field for batting practice and looked fine hitting right- and left-handed. He pinch-hit in the eighth, grounding out, and played short.

Double the fun

Jeffrey Springs will start the first game of Tuesday’s doubleheader (first pitches 1:07 and 7:07 p.m.), with Yonny Chirinos — who will be the designated 29th man for the day — likely to work the nightcap. The Jays will use top starter Alek Manoah in the opener, then a bullpen-day arrangement for the second game.The teams are playing two to make up one of the games from the original April 4-6 series that was canceled due to the lockout. That also is why they will play a fifth game of this series on Thursday and played a doubleheader on July 2.

Miscellany

Cash said a factor in sending down Patino after his rough Sunday start was the Rays’ confidence that top starter Shane McClanahan is recovered from his left shoulder impingement and soon will reclaim his rotation spot, likely Thursday. … Tyler Glasnow (Tommy John surgery) is slated for his second rehab start with Durham on Tuesday. … Infielder Yu Chang, who was designated for assignment Friday to make way for Franco’s return, was claimed off waivers by the Red Sox. … Brendan McKay was shifted to the 60-day injured list to create an extra 40-man roster spot.

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