The Tampa Bay Rays always prioritize putting together a deep bullpen, and that has been no more apparent than this season. There are currently eight relievers in Triple-A, and of them, five could legitimately be in a big league bullpen right now, with the other three not far off. The Durham Bulls also have starters Nate Karns, Matt Andriese, Mike Montgomery, and Enny Romero who would translate to the bullpen well if needed. Of all these quality options, the Rays chose lefty Jeff Beliveau to be called-up as the extra bullpen arm when Matt Moore went on the 15-day DL. What about Beliveau made him the most attractive?
Beliveau’s minor league stats are actually quite impressive, yet he received little consideration this spring for a bullpen job. In his minor league career, he has posted a 2.78 ERA with a 12.1 K/9 and a 4.0 BB/9, and in 2013 he was even better, throwing to a 2.40 ERA, 15.0 K/9, and 4.3 BB/9. His walk rates might be slightly high, but those can be masked in relief, and his ERAs and strikeout rates are incredible. From a performance standpoint, Beliveau is more than deserving of a big league bullpen job, and would probably have one if he did not pitch in such a deep organization.
Another reason why Beliveau was called up is because of his immediate ability to contribute. The Rays have plenty of other players in Triple-A who have more potential than Beliveau. But among them, only Brad Boxberger has significant big league experience. Why wasn’t Boxberger called up? The reason was the balance between big league impact for now and development for the long-term. The Rays saw no point in throwing off Boxberger’s development by having him pitch just a few days in the big leagues. Beliveau is going to be sent down when Moore’s turn in the rotation comes up and the Rays need to call up a pitcher capable of providing length. In Beliveau, the Rays see a pitcher who may lack the highest upside, but he can contribute now and should not be affected by his short stint in the major leagues.
The last reason that Beliveau was called up is because of his left-handedness. The Rays love carrying three lefties in the bullpen, something they did for most of 2013, but with the personnel that they have it just did not make sense to do so out of spring training this year. Now, Joe Maddon gets his third lefty, and he can use that towards his matchup-heavy strategies, even if that is just for a few days. The Rays’ other two lefties are Cesar Ramos and Jake McGee, but neither really fill the role of a lefty specialist, especially with Ramos needing to be ready to provide length. Beliveau can take that job for now and gives the Rays bullpen the ability to match up even better. There are two other lefties at Durham in C.J. Riefenhauser and Adam Liberatore, but Beliveau is a better pitcher than Liberatore, and Riefenhauser needs to prove himself at Triple-A.
Overall, Jeff Beliveau was the Tampa Bay Rays’ best option to call up in the short-term. Had the Rays needed a more long-term replacement, they might have called up someone with more potential, but because they only need an extra arm for a few days, they went with Beliveau, a pitcher used to going up and down but still possessing the ability to contribute. The Rays emphasize depth, and it is one of the reasons why they are so good year after year. Beliveau is one more example of the Rays are at filling their Triple-A team with big league-quality talent.