After everyone in the Tampa Bay Rays bullpen except Kirby Yates pitched yesterday, the Rays are expected to call up a fresh arm in time for tonight’s game. Joe Maddon told Marc Topkin that such a move would likely take place, and Topkin later opined that the lucky Durham reliever would be Brandon Gomes. Will Gomes indeed be the player promoted and who will be sent down?
As the Rays look to add a bullpen arm, they have three options: the aggressive route, the temporary fix, and the conservative route. The first path would involve designating Cesar Ramos for assignment and calling up Mike Montgomery or Alex Colome. Ramos’ advantage is that he is comfortable in a long relief role, but Montgomery and Colome have much better stuff and could easily emerge as more valuable bullpen arms. That would make sense–the Rays bullpen could use a boost–but that isn’t happening right now because Colome won’t be available for two more days and Montgomery for another three.
For the temporary fix, the Rays could call up Matt Andriese, who actually is on full rest, to serve in a long relief role. Andriese is not on the 40-man roster at this point, but he will have to be protected prior to the Rule 5 Draft anyway, and the Rays could make room for him by designating say Ali Solis for assignment. Cole Figueroa would be sent down to accommodate Andriese on the 25-man roster, and then, once the Rays decide that Andriese is no longer necessary as bullpen depth, they could call up Vince Belnome or, if he is ready, Wil Myers. The demotion of Figueroa for Myers has been a likely scenario for a while, and all the Rays would be doing is using the maneuverability of their 25th roster spot to give their bullpen some short-term help. The issues with this plan, though, are that the Rays would rather not add Andriese to their 40-man roster now, and Andriese would be a pitcher that the Rays would not want to use except for in the case of a blowout or a short start.
Finally, we have the easy way out, which would be demoting Figueroa to make room for a reliever like Gomes or C.J. Riefenhauser for a few days. Of those two, Riefenhauser is the more talented pitcher, but unfortunately, he has been walking hitters left and right since missing time with an oblique strain. Even though he has a 1.91 ERA in 37.2 innings pitched in that span, he has just a 28-20 strikeout to walk ratio. Gomes, meanwhile, has just a 4.60 ERA in 22 Durham appearances, but he did have a 2.28 ERA and a 28-9 strikeout to walk ratio in a stretch of 23.2 innings pitched before two recent tough outings. Both Gomes and Riefenhauser are well-rested, with Gomes not appearing since August 7th while Riefenhauser hasn’t thrown in a game since August 10th. Of those two, though, it seems like Gomes is the better option because the Rays are more comfortable sending him up and down, and Riefenhauser is still trying to get on track. Gomes is rested enough to throw two or three innings in a game or two before going back down in favor of Myers.
The Rays do have options as they decide which reliever to call up, but after evaluating all the different scenarios, a Brandon Gomes promotion looks like the Rays’ best choice. We will have to wait for official confirmation, but be prepared to congratulate Gomes on his return to the big leagues.