After Yunel Escobar was placed on the DL, the Tampa Bay Rays’ initial reaction was to call up lefty Jeff Beliveau to fortify the bullpen. However, at the end of the day, the Rays wanted a better balance of pitchers and position players and had to find some player to help restore that. As it turns out, Vince Belnome will be that player as the Rays hope to keep going strong without their starting shortstop.
Belnome, 26, has slumped badly 2014 at Triple-A Durham after an excellent performance there in 2013, managing a .225/.345/.370 line. Even at his worst, however, Belnome has two big things going for him: excellent plate discipline and versatility. Even amid his struggles, Belnome has an excellent 15.1% walk rate in 2014, and he has seen time at all four corner positions on the diamond. Belnome is best suited at first base, but he is fine in left field and can do a decent enough job at right, third base, and even second base for limited stints. Belnome gives the Rays a player capable of delivering a quality pinch-hit appearance from his first big league at-bat and the positional flexibility to remain in the game no matter who he replaces. This marks Belnome second stint in the majors, and expect him to finally get into a game for the first time. He should be back at Triple-A when Escobar returns, but it is great for the Rays to give a player like Vince Belnome a vote of confidence after a rough year, and he should be able to return to Durham feeling better about his game.