The acquisition of Lueke from the Seattle Mariners for John Jaso looked like a unqualified disaster last season as Jaso had a huge season in Seattle while Lueke was terrible,, managing justa 5.59 ERA at Triple-A and an 18.90 ERA in 3 big league appearances. But even as he struggled, Lueke managed a great 3.01 FIP as he struck out 9.4 batters per 9 innings, walked just 2.3, and managed a 0.8 HR/9, and he didn’t lose anything off of his impressive repertoire, which featured a great mid-90′s fastball, another plus pitch in a splitter, and another solid pitch in his curveball. And this season, Lueke’s results finally got in line with his stuff as he was unhittable at Triple-A this time around, going 2-0 with a 0.95 ERA, a 13.7 K/9, a 2.4 BB/9, and a 0.5 HR/9 in 14 appearances and 19 innings pitched. Lueke was just too good to keep down, especially with Gomes struggling, managing just a 5.40 ERA in 14 big league appearances before getting hurt.
Lueke will settle into a low-leverage middle relief role for now, but he has the stuff to pitch his way into a bigger role if he succeeds. Lueke has always featured electric stuff, but so far in 2013, he has done an excellent job not just throwing strikes but locating his pitches down in the zone, and Triple-A hitters have been overwhelmed. It also should help Lueke to pitch alongside Joel Peralta, the Rays’ resident splitter master, who could help him make the necessary improvements with his key secondary pitch to help him translate his Triple-A success to the major leagues. Worst-case scenario, Lueke is as bad as Gomes was, but he features better stuff than Gomes and sky-high confidence right now, giving him a chance to become a big part of this Rays bullpen by season’s end. The Rays bullpen had a breakthrough game on Thursday as Fernando Rodney and Kyle Farnsworth looked as good as they have all season. Hopefully Lueke can be part of the relief corps’ continued turnaround and help stop the lost leads and seal Rays win after Rays win.