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Who is Easton McGee? The newest Rays pitcher

Notes | The need for a fresh arm in the bullpen created an opportunity for the 2016 draft pick.
The Rays on Thursday called up right-handed pitcher Easton McGee, a 2016 fourth-round pick who has had a solid season at Triple-A Durham, to add a fresh arm to the bullpen. [MARC TOPKIN | Times]
The Rays on Thursday called up right-handed pitcher Easton McGee, a 2016 fourth-round pick who has had a solid season at Triple-A Durham, to add a fresh arm to the bullpen. [MARC TOPKIN | Times] [ MARC TOPKIN | Times ]
Published Sep. 30|Updated Sep. 30

CLEVELAND — Easton McGee was lying in bed in his Charlotte, North Carolina, hotel room Wednesday night when he saw Triple-A Durham manager Brady Williams’ name pop up unexpectedly on his phone.

“He said, ‘Easton, I’ve been waiting all year to give you this call,’” McGee recalled. “When I heard that, my stomach kind of dropped and I was like, ‘Oh man.’”

McGee was headed to the big leagues, to add a fresh arm to the Rays bullpen at a most critical and exciting time of year.

“He said it, I just, I was speechless. I didn’t even know what to say,” McGee said. “You play it over in your head a million times. But when it actually happens, it’s surreal.”

McGee, 24, is not a familiar name and not considered among the Rays’ top prospects. He hasn’t even pitched in a major-league spring training game.

He is a 2016 fourth-round pick from Hopkinsville, Kentucky, who has made a slow rise through the farm system, posting a 6-9, 5.43 record over 27 games (22 starts) this season at Durham.

Manager Kevin Cash said he didn’t know much about McGee, either, but got good reviews from Williams.

“He said he’ll throw strikes, he’ll put the ball on the ground for you, and hopefully our infielders are there and we can turn some double plays if guys are on base,” Cash said.

McGee’s parents, wife, and in-laws made the seven-hour drive to Cleveland, though he didn’t get in the game, which was close throughout as the Rays lost 2-1. But they shared in his unexpected excitement.

“It just happened really fast, and just been waiting on it for a long time,” he said. “And it was really nice to actually see it come to reality.”

When McGee gets in a game, he will be the 61st player the Rays have used, tying the franchise record set last year. Their current 60 is seventh-most in the majors. McGee also will be the 37th pitcher.

The Rays sent down reliever Calvin Faucher, who earned his first save on Tuesday and worked 1-2/3 innings, allowing one hit, on Wednesday. To make room for McGee on the 40-man roster, they designated reliever Cristofer Ogando for assignment.

Diaz’s return uncertain

Third baseman Yandy Diaz remained sidelined due to soreness in his left shoulder and said via team interpreter Manny Navarro he is “definitely a little worried” about being able to return to the lineup before the end of the season.

“I’m still going to try and work and get all the treatment I need in order to help this team,” he said.

But Cash said Diaz is available to pinch hit and should be ready to return to the lineup in a few days. He has not started since Sept. 19 and pinch hit once, in the 10th inning on Tuesday. He took ground balls Wednesday for the first time since his last start and felt some pinching in the shoulder, which caused additional concern.

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Miscellany

The Rays are now 7-17 in one-run games on the road, compared to 20-8 at home. … David Peralta rapped two hits, giving him 998 for his career. … Wander Franco had his first two-steal game in the majors and his 43rd with two or more hits. … The Rays, swept by Houston last week at home, will face starters Framber Valdez, Cristian Javier and Luis Garcia but miss Justin Verlander for a second time.

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