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Everett Teaford: Reliever With MLB Experience for Rays’ Depth

By Robbie Knopf
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Whenever a team signs a player to a minor league deal, they always want there to be some chance that he could help their big league team. Most such signings do not end up making a difference, but injuries and poor performance are always a possibility for the players on a team’s 25-man roster and depth ensures that the team can survive even when they do.

Lefty Everett Teaford will not immediately figure into the Tampa Bay Rays’ 2015 plans, but if they have a need for a reliever at some point, he could prove quite useful. Even better, he has the ability to compete for their long man job in spring training.

Teaford, who will turn 31 in May, spent time with the Kansas City Royals from 2011 to 2013 before heading to Korea last season. Overall, he has a decent 4.25 ERA in 45 MLB appearances (8 starts) and 106 innings pitched, but his 5.3 strikeouts per 9 innings, 3.0 BB/9, and 1.6 HR/9 were much less promising. He also didn’t look great in Korea, managing a 5.24 ERA in 99.2 IP–albeit in a league where the average ERA was 5.22.

Teaford was a starter in Korea, but it is hard to believe that he can fill such a role in the majors. Interestingly enough, one major reason why is his difficulty with left-handed batters. Everywhere you look, Teaford has recorded a better strikeout to walk ratio versus righties than against lefties, whether in the majors, minors, or even Korea.

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Against same-side hitters, Everett Teaford works primarily with his low-90’s four-seam fastball, cutter, and curveball. When he gets to face a righty, though, he can bring out his fourth pitch, a changeup. Teaford’s cutter, which averaged 86.90 MPH during his big league time, is easily his best pitch, and the change has also worked well against right-handed batters. He has been so inconsistent, though, because his heater and high-70’s curve have both been below-average.

The Rays have a couple of possible changes they can make as they attempt to help Teaford improve as a pitcher. The first would be to scrap his four-seam fastball, or at least have him throw it much less. His cutter is clearly a superior pitch, and if he uses it as his primary fastball, he would still have his changeup and curveball as secondary offerings.

A shift that would not to accompany that would be Teaford taking some speed off of his changeup. It has averaged 83.82 MPH, and he might have to take it down to 80-81 MPH for it to work well off his cutter. If Teaford can do so successfully, though, the Rays may even try to have him throw his changeups to batters of both sides.

Teaford threw his changeup just 3% of the time versus lefties compared to 13% versus righties, and the Rays may alter that significantly in 2015. They have had great success having pitchers like James Shields and Alex Cobb use their changeup no matter which batter’s box the opposing hitter stands in, and Brad Boxberger fits a similar description out of their bullpen.

There is no guarantee that Everett Teaford will succeed even if he does change his approach. His big league time was unimpressive, as was his stint in Korea, and he needs to prove that he is a different pitcher now and a better one. From the Rays’ standpoint, though, they see a pitcher with a good cutter and changeup plus the ability to provide length, and they believe he is worth a chance.

Especially since they signed him to a minor league deal, the Tampa Bay Rays have nothing to lose working with Teaford and seeing if he can turn into a big league option. After some time with Triple-A pitching coach Kyle Snyder, Teaford has the ability to refine his arsenal and appear with the Rays at some point in 2015.

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