The Tampa Bay Rays needed some insurance in the bullpen on Wednsday, and thus they called up Brandon Gomes while sending down utility man Cole Figueroa. With that move the Rays were playing with an extra reliever and one less position player, so Gomes being sent back down seemed inevitable. Indeed he has been sent back down, with infielder Vince Belnome being recalled from Triple-A Durham to take his spot.
Gomes served his purpose well, throwing 2.0 shutout innings against the Texas Rangers on Wednesday and giving the rest of the bullpen some much needed rest. While the call-up was short-lived, it is just one small step as Gomes looks to finally establish himself as a big league reliever rather than just a Quad-A player. It looked like the right-hander was doing just that at the beginning of the year, having a dominant spring training, breaking camp on the big league roster, and going on to post a 2.87 ERA in his first 15.2 innings. But after a few rough outings in a row, Gomes found himself back in Triple-A. Whether he can ever establish himself as a big league remains to be seen, but at the minimum he provides and experienced depth option for the Rays. Expect to see him again as a September call-up this year, if not before then.
For Belnome, it is his 3rd stint with the Rays this year. In the previous two stints, he only saw action in one game as the DH and went 0 for 3. In 106 games at Triple-A this season, the lefty-swinging Belnome has hit .241/.360/.382. Realistically he is a better hitter than that, though. In 2013 at Triple-A, Belnome hit .300/.408/.446. He has also been much better as of late, raising his OPS from .719 on July 8th to its current .747 mark. Don’t expect a ton of power in the big leagues, but he should be a solid contact player with a very good plate approach.
With the Rays, Belnome is likely to see a majority of his time at DH and first base, on top of being a late-innings pinch-hitter. Belnome can also be stuck at second, third, and left field if absolutely needed, however he is not a great defender any of those places. The Rays likely won’t need him any of those positions, though, given their present roster versatility.
It is a continued vote of confidence for Belnome to be called up once again despite an up-and-down season in the minors. Belnome is likely to be with the Rays until Wil Myers, who is progressing in his rehab at Triple-A, comes off the DL.