Rays Winter League Recap: Merrill Kelly Provides Hope for 2014

By Robbie Knopf

Fitting that the final day of the season for the Tampa Bay Rays coincided with Opening Day in the Arizona Fall League. The presents ends, but the future keeps going and it looks as promising as ever for this Rays organization. Even better symbolism can be seen in the way Merrill Kelly pitched.

Arizona Fall League: Scottsdale Scorpions 6, Salt River Rafters 5

The game was essentially over for the Salt River Rafters. They had entered the 9th inning with a 5-3 lead, but Padres prospect Matt Stites blew it, allowing 3 runs on 4 hits capped by a go-ahead double by Tommy La Stella (Braves) to give Scottsdale a 6-5 lead. As Stites walked off the field demoralized, in came Rays prospect Merrill Kelly. What did Kelly do? He struck out both batters he faced. The inning was over and three outs later, so was the game, but Kelly’s performance inspired confidence that the future would be better. The Rays’ playoff loss hurts a lot more than a blown save in the 9th, but the same holds true: with the help of their prospects and the imapct free agents you know are on the horizon, even as this season ends in disappointment, there is plenty of hope that tomorrow will be better. Speaking of tomorrow, is Kelly starting to establish himself as a potential option for the Rays next season at least in a relief role?

Aside from Kelly, three other Rays prospects saw time for Salt River: Ryan Brett, Todd Glaesmann, and Matt Ramsey. (From now on, assosciate Salt River with teh Rays–that’s the team all their prospects are on.) Brett had a strong game, going 0 for 1 but with 3 walks and a run scored, while Glaesmann went 0 for 4 and Ramsey allowed a 1 run on 3 hits in his inning of work, striking out 1. While Kelly and Brett hope to sustain their success from breakout years, the big thing for Ramsey is just to keep pitching as he continues moving past Tommy John Surgery. Far from a perfect Arizona Fall League Opening Day for Rays prospects, but it was big to see Brett showing off his plate discipline and Kelly finishing the game with a bang.