Tampa Bay Rays: The Walking Wounded Nearing Their Return

Apr 4, 2017; St. Petersburg, FL, USA; Tampa Bay Rays relief pitcher Brad Boxberger (26) at Tropicana Field. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
Apr 4, 2017; St. Petersburg, FL, USA; Tampa Bay Rays relief pitcher Brad Boxberger (26) at Tropicana Field. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports /

If there is ever a sequel to the movie and TV series MASH, it will surely feature the Tampa Bay Rays. Each season they enter opening day with a variety of players on the disabled list struggling to remain competitive with those players out of the lineup.

This year is no different. The Tampa Bay Rays currently have five players on the 10-day DL and six on the 60day DL. Five of those players are important to the team’s success and that’s a lot for a low payroll franchise.

Fortunately for the Rays, four of those key players will return to the lineup in the month of June. Let’s take a look at how they will contribute to the team and fit into the lineup.

First up will be Brad Boxberger. When healthy in 2014/15, “The Box” appeared in 132 games, saved 43 and struck out 178 batters in 127 innings. Needless to say, he was an important part of the Rays’ late inning bullpen.

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It also goes without saying that, aside from Alex Colome, the Rays’ late inning bullpen has been inconsistent with a group of rookies and journeymen trying to fill the role. Boxberger would immediately serve as a bridge to Colome while the team works on developing other late inning relievers such as Ryne Stanek.

Next up is infielder Matt Duffy. Obtained for Matt Moore, Duffy has been out since 2016 with a heel injury. He’s finally rounding into shape and would provide the Rays’ with another talented infielder. The most important part of Duffy’s game is that he is a solid contact hitter and does not strike out a lot.

He had .281/.324/.725 slash line with 113 RBIs in 890 at-bats. The Rays are a team that hits plenty of home runs but also strikes out a lot and leaves too many runners stranded at second and third. Another situational hitter in the lineup would be helpful.

Brad Miller is also returning from the disabled list. He is a middle infielder by trade so becomes another piece in the Rays crowded infield. With Evan Longoria at third, Logan Morrison at first and Tim Beckham at shortstop or second, there is only one middle infield position for Duffy or Miller.

Miller had a killer 2016 season offensively with 30 home runs and 80 RBIs. However, he is off to a rocky start this year hitting under .205 and playing poorly at second base but he does have 30 walks in 132 at-bats and a .350 OBP. It will be very interesting to see how the Rays handle the Duffy/Miller situation.

Last but not least is the long awaited debut of catcher Wilson Ramos. He provides a solid right handed bat but the question is how much he can catch after coming off a second ACL operation. He may be a full time catcher, a part time catcher or a DH. His status will determine what happens to catchers Derek Norris and Jesus Sucre.

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Norris has been okay but not great as a starting catcher and Sucre has been a real find as his backup. At any rate, a healthy Ramos would be a major upgrade offensively and defensively at the catching position.

The other seven players on the DL include Jumbo Diaz, Diego Moreno and Peter Bourjos all on the 10-day list and Xavier Cedeno, Nathan Eovaldi, Kevin Gadea and Shawn Tolleson on the 60-day list. Cedeno is the only big time player of this group and his return from elbow problems will not be until July at the earliest.

Diaz, Moreno and Gadea may not remain with the team after they come off the DL. Eovaldi and Tolleson have undergone Tommy John surgery and won’t return until 2018.

Matt Silverman believes that the return of Boxberger, Duffy and Ramos will be the equivalent of making three major in season trades. If all three players come back at the peak of their game, he is probably right. If the Rays can find a way to effectively use Miller and he can up his offensive game, that can’t hurt.

Next: Tampa Bay Rays: Logan Morrison has not changed much

All and all, the Rays are only four games out of first place in the American League East and adding four quality players might be just enough to tip the scales in their favor.