Is Brandon Gomes’ Injury “Setback” A Show of Gamesmanship By the Rays?


The past couple of weeks, we have heard intermittently about Brandon Gomes‘ recovery from a lat strain. But while that was happening, there had to be one thought in the back of every Rays fan’s mind: where in the world were the Rays going to put Gomes? After it was reported that Gomes hoped to return on Monday, that was never pushed to the forefront anymore. David Price was coming back on Tuesday and there was absolutely no chance that the Rays were going to make room for Gomes in addition to Price. What were the Rays going to do? Where they going to take Gomes off the DL and immediately option him to Triple-A? Where they planning on making wholesale bullpen changes and cutting cies with Kyle Farnsworth, Cesar Ramos, or maybe even both? The most likely event seemed pretty obvious: Gomes suffering a “setback” that would prevent him from returning to the major leagues on schedule. And then that turned out to be exactly what happened.

"RHP Brandon Gomes, aiming to come off the disabled list Monday, experienced a setback in his recovery from a lat strain.Gomes was warming up Thursday in Port Charlotte for what was to be the second of three rehab outings when he felt soreness in the same area. He said it’s “nothing major,” but he doesn’t know how long his return will be delayed. He has been out since May 8."

That’s convenient–Gomes suffers a setback and “he doesn’t know how long his return will be delayed.” Wow, the Rays got lucky that the timing was so perfect! No, they did not. Correlation did not imply causation, but a setback like this right at the precise moment when the Rays were going to have to make a tough decision can’t just be coincidence. But what do the Rays possibly have to gain by keeping Gomes on a rehab assignment as opposed to just optioning him to Triple-A? His option has already been used for this season, so the Rays aren’t losing anything by optioning him again! Are we just contemplating a conspiracy theory that is just a total waste of time even if it’s actually true?

The Rays actually do have plenty to gain by keeping Gomes on a rehab assignment as opposed to sending him down to Triple-A. For one thing, it might help Gomes’ confidence knowing that his return to the big leagues isn’t an uncertainty but essentially inevitable–the rehab assignment will end when he’s healthy and the team needs him. But there is a quire tangible benefit to the Rays’ roster as well. Once you option a player, you can’t call him up for 10 days, so the Rays would be losing a fresh arm and one who has flashed effectiveness at the major league level. What about Josh Lueke? Lueke is another fresh arm, but usually what has been happening with these call-ups is that they throw 2 or 3 innings and get sent back down. You call up Lueke, he gets sent down, and who do you go to next after Gomes? Jeff Beliveau? Jake Odorizzi when he could be much better used as a spot-starter when the need arises? Keeping Gomes on a rehab assignment gives the Rays maximum roster flexibility for the next three weeks and we have seen in recent years just how important it is for them to have that. What’s the point of losing a bullpen arm for ten days when you really don’t have to?

It just never made sense for Brandon Gomes to come up on Monday, and the Rays knew that. Sometimes fans have to wish that their teams would give them accurate injury reports and really tell them the full picture of what’s going on. But when they think further about the subject, they can’t possibly want full injury disclosure. You want your team to do everything possibly within the rules to win as many games as possible. Regarding that Gomes injury, the Rays are doing exactly that. Call it gamesmanship or exploiting the rules, but it will help the Rays win and you never know just how big of a difference it could make.