It has just been one of those years for the Tampa Bay Rays. “X-rays were negative on Steven Souza Jr.’s right pinkie” has been a common refrain, but apparently the cut on his finger was bad enough that it didn’t matter. Souza has been placed on the 15-day disabled list with the injury, with John Jaso returning from the 60-day disabled list to replace him. Right-hander Preston Guilmet was designated for assignment to accommodate Jaso on the 40-man roster.
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The Rays have to hope that Souza can return soon–the first day that he is eligible is July 21st (hat tip to Marc Topkin)–but fans are undoubtedly going to be concerned given their team’s remarkable misfortune with injuries this season. It’s frustrating that the Rays’ best home run hitter is now on the disabled list, and everyone has to hope that there is no significance of Souza going on the DL as Jaso comes off after Jaso missed months with what was initially diagnosed as a minor wrist injury. For a more positive comparison, we can talk about Evan Longoria being sidelined in August of 2008 in a season which of course ended well for the Rays nonetheless.
John Jaso is finally ready to start contributing to the Rays. He won’t start the first game of the doubleheader today as the team doesn’t want to push him too hard right off the bat, but he gives this team a legitimate leadoff hitter and a player was some of the best on-base skills in all of baseball. Jaso won’t catch a single time, but that really doesn’t matter given how much he hits. Over the last three years, Jaso hit to a .270/.372/.425 line and a 126 OPS+. OPS+ adjusts for ballpark effects, and no player has a higher OPS+ for the Rays this season than that 126 mark. He can make a huge impact for this team.
Finally, Preston Guilmet is the classic case of a Quad-A pitcher. He has a very good splitter and a strong track record at Triple-A, but he throws in only the high-80’s with his fastball and doesn’t have pinpoint command of it either. The Rays gave him a flier to see if they could make some adjustments with him, but instead he looked exactly like he had with other teams. The Rays received 5.1 major league mop-up innings while he was on the 40-man roster, and they will hope that he passes through waivers and remains in the organization as minor league depth.
This is a bittersweet day for the Rays as Jaso finally returns, but only as Souza’s solid rookie season goes on hold. Hopefully the play of Jaso and others like Joey Butler, Grady Sizemore, and Brandon Guyer can make up for Souza’s absence over the next few weeks before he comes back and finishes his first full major league season strongly.