After a 16-23 start, the Tampa Bay Rays need to do something to shake things up and get back on track. The Rays know that, and a move is finally coming. Enny Romero did not make his scheduled start at Triple-A Durham, and Marc Topkin tweeted that the Rays did that to have him available in the big leagues for today. Who will depart to make room for Romero and how will Romero fit on the roster?
The most probable outcome at this point is the departure of a player Rays fans have been loathing since the start of the season: Josh Lueke. Last night, Lueke allowed three runs in just 1.1 innings of work, giving up a pair of home runs. On the season, he has a 5.09 ERA in 19 appearances, allowing a horrific 2.0 home runs per 9 innings. That ERA is actually understates how bad he has been–he has allowed eight inherited runners to score, tied for the most in baseball, despite inheriting just the 32nd most baserunners. The Rays chose to designate Heath Bell for assignment rather than Lueke the last time they needed to make a roster move, but Lueke’s time may have finally come.
But what if the move the Rays are making has nothing to do with Lueke? The other possibility could be an injury. We have not heard about anything being wrong with tonight’s scheduled starter, David Price, or any other member of the Rays’ staff, but we don’t know for certain. Given the timing of this, is there any chance that we could see Grant Balfour or Joel Peralta hit the disabled list? Both have been struggling mightily, and the time may have come to put one on the shelf for a few weeks to get him on track. If Balfour went on the disabled list, we could see Jake McGee close out games for the Rays, which would certainly make sense given that he has been the team’s best reliever by far this season.
If a reliever really is going to leave the roster, what does that mean for Romero? There are two options: either he is up for one or two games like the Rays did with Nate Karns or will become a permanent piece of the bullpen. We have to think that the former option is more likely. Romero is a high-upside starting pitching prospect, and the Rays have no incentive to leave him in the bullpen at this point. Romero will likely be on the roster for just one or two days to protect against a short start or an extra-inning game before making way for a reliever like fellow lefty Jeff Beliveau. It would be especially valuable to have Romero available in long relief for Wednesday’s game, when Jake Odorizzi takes the mound.
In the unlikely event that the Rays are about to put another starting pitcher on the disabled list, Romero would be available to pitch but would not be a realistic option to enter the rotation. Romero did make a big league spot-start last year, but his command still requires plenty of work and he badly needs a full year at Triple-A. So far in 2014, he has a 5.02 ERA, an 8.6 K/9, a 4.5 BB/9, and a 1.0 HR/9 in 7 Triple-A starts, not exactly making the best case for a promotion. If the Rays were going to use a spot-starter, you would have to think that they would call up Mike Montgomery, who is Durham’s scheduled starter tonight. He is not as highly regarded of a pitcher, but he has much more Triple-A experience, has pitched better, and is also on the 40-man roster. The fact that we are hearing about Romero and not Montgomery would seem to indicate that the Rays are going to make a move in their bullpen, not their rotation.
The news that Enny Romero is preparing for a call-up should be a big deal for Rays fans. For Romero specifically, though, it is extremely unlikely that he is going up to the big leagues to stay. Stay tuned in the coming hours to see what the Rays decide to do, but bear in mind that Romero will likely be replaced by another reliever before long if he does come up.