Austin Pruitt heads to Durham as the Tampa Bay Rays have optioned the reliever and selected the contract of Diego Moreno from Durham adding another fresh arm to the embattled bullpen.
Having confidence in someone can only last for so long before the time comes when a change is needed and for Tampa Bay Rays manager Kevin Cash the time for a change has come for reliever Austin Pruitt who was optioned to Triple-A Durham on Tuesday.
In a corresponding move, the Rays selected the contract of Diego Moreno from Durham. Moreno was signed as a free agent this past offseason and returns to the majors for the first time since 2015 was he was with the Yankees.
Pruitt’s first month in the majors was reminiscent of a roller coaster ride, with more downs than ups. In five of his first six appearances, Pruitt had allowed 11 runs (10 earned) with a 15.88 ERA before turning the corner in his seventh appearance which was a three-inning stellar performance against the Tigers when he allowed just one hit with five strikeouts to pickup his first major league win.
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He would followed that up with two more scoreless appearances before getting shelled in his final three appearances before his demotion which came on the heels of two poor outings. The first coming against the Miami Marlins where he blew a save and allowed five runs (all earned) on seven hits in one inning and his final appearances against the Kansas City Royals where he allowed three runs on three hits in two innings.
Overall on the season, Pruitt’s line stands at 3-1 with a 7.52 ERA with one blown save and one hold including 18 strikeouts and five walks in 20.1 innings pitched.
“Kind of a unique month,” manager Kevin Cash said. “Did a lot of things to help us win some games and did some things that you can tell he’s still young and adapting to a new role, so I think it’s more just to give him the opportunity to kind of reset, get down there, get in a good rhythm, get feeling good about himself again.”
A starter throughout his minor league career, the Rays had Pruitt making the transition to a reliever in the majors rather than in the minors based on his abilities to provide them as a long reliever and spot starter. However, because of the ongoing issues with a bullpen that has been decimated with injuries, Pruitt was called on more often and used in short appearances, which is likely to have compromised his effectiveness.
Pruitt will continue to pitch in relief for Durham. “Longer relief, pitching in important innings, but giving him those two- and three-inning outings,” Cash said.
Moreno joins the Rays from Durham where he has excelled. In 16.1 innings, Moreno was 0-0, 1.10 ERA with only three, while striking out 17 and had not allowed a run over his last 11 appearances (16.1-IP). Additionally, he was five-for-five in save opportunities and had given up two runs.
Unfortunately, for Moreno, his return to the majors was not as memorable for him or the Rays would have liked. Entering the game against the Royals on Tuesday night in the 12th inning, with the score tied at six all, Moreno gave up a home run to Mike Moustakas to take the loss in the Royals comeback win.
“Diego’s a guy who we really liked during Spring Training,” Rays manager Kevin Cash said. “Showed some pitchability, obviously had a big fastball, and he’s done a nice job since he got to Durham, so we’re excited to have him up here.”
This spring with the Rays, Moreno was 1-0 with a 2.45 ERA in nine appearances (11-IP) in which he allowed six runs (three earned) on 10 hits, with 10 strikeouts and six walks.
In 2006, the Pittsburgh Pirates signed Moreno as an International free agent. He would spend 2007 through 2011 pitching in the minors, advancing no further than Double-A for Pittsburgh before a trade in 2012 to the New York Yankees for A.J. Burnett.