As if the injury bug hasn’t been cruel enough to the Tampa Bay Rays this year, the Rays might have another injury that requires a DL stint. Starting shortstop Yunel Escobar has been out of the lineup for fuve straight games with a shoulder injury, and a DL stint may be required. He was said to be feeling better today, but still remained out of the lineup. After already missing so many games, the Rays could put Escobar on the DL for the next week and a half to ensure that he remains healthy.
Losing Escobar for these past five games has already hurt, and that is going to continue for as long as he is out. His defense is his calling card, and he provides tremendous value to the Rays in that area. He has had a disappointing year at the plate, as has every seemingly Rays player, but he does a good job of drawing walks and rarely strikes out. The good news for the Rays is that they have plenty of other options to play shortstop. Ben Zobrist will be the starter there for however long the Rays need it, with some combination of Logan Forsythe, Sean Rodriguez, and Cole Figueroa playing second base. All three of those guys also have the ability to play shortstop if needed. Losing Escobar isn’t ideal, but Zobrist will fill in nicely at short, and given Escobar’s down year at the plate the Rays won’t be losing much offensive production by playing Forsythe, Rodriguez, and Figueroa at second base.
The next question becomes who do the Rays call-up in Escobar does go on the DL. The problem with this is that there aren’t really any obvious position players that the Rays would look to call upon. Hak-Ju Lee is a shortstop and is on the 40-man roster, but has struggled mightily at the plate this year at Triple-A. Vince Belnome is likewise on the 40-man, but he too has struggled at the plate this year. Veterans Wilson Betemit, Mike Fontenot, and Jayson Nix all could be options, but they aren’t on the 40-man roster. The same goes for outfielder Mikie Mahtook.
In the end, it would make more sense for the Rays to call-up an extra arm. Here they have plenty of players who would could be possibilities, including Jeff Beliveau, C.J. Riefenhauser, Alex Colome, Mike Montgomery, Nate Karns and Enny Romero, all of who are on the 40-man roster, and all of who would do fine in the Rays bullpen. Heading into Sunday’s game, the Rays bullpen had thrown the most innings in all of baseball. Especially with the Rays being far out of contention, there is no need to push these relievers to their limits. Thus, calling up an extra arm for a week or so while Escobar is on the shelf would help give some of these relievers the rest that they need.
It has been one thing after another for the Rays this year, and it looks like that may continue with Yunel Escobar. A DL stint isn’t a certainty, but Escobar hasn’t played in five days, and the Rays can’t wait much longer to make a decision. Zobrist is a quality replacement option at short, which gives the Rays even more of an incentive to put Escobar on the DL. We will have to wait and see exactly how this plays out, but the smart move would be putting Escobar on the DL rather than pushing him to play when the Rays aren’t competing anyways.