Jonny DeLuca has been on a tear offensively in his first starts in a Rays uniform

The Rays called up Jonny DeLuca from Triple-A last week, and he has been on a mission from the start.
May 5, 2024; St. Petersburg, Florida, USA; Tampa Bay Rays right fielder Jonny DeLuca (21) drives in
May 5, 2024; St. Petersburg, Florida, USA; Tampa Bay Rays right fielder Jonny DeLuca (21) drives in / Jonathan Dyer-USA TODAY Sports

Where did Jonny DeLuca come from?

The Tampa Bay Rays were looking to find a team to trade right-handed ace Tyler Glasnow to this offseason, just as his contract escalated. On Dec. 16, 2023, the Rays sent their ex-ace and OF Manuel Margot to the Los Angeles Dodgers for right-hander Ryan Pepiot and OF Jonny DeLuca.

DeLuca, out of the University of Oregon, was in the Dodgers' organization for five years before getting traded to his new home, Tampa Bay. While in Triple-A with the Oklahoma City Dodgers in the 2023 season, he blasted seven home runs and drove in 35 RBI, slashing a .306/.397/.548 in 157 at-bats. After arriving in the Rays organization, he completed a brief stint at the Triple-A level with the Durham Bulls, blasting two bombs and driving in six runs in six games. His exceptional hitting has been with him in his entire professional baseball career.

Rays call up Jonny DeLuca

After fracturing his right hand on a hit-by-pitch in spring training, sending him to the IL for a month, the Rays called up DeLuca to see if he could help their struggling offense. On May 3, the day DeLuca got called up, the Rays decided to let him have an immediate impact, starting him eighth in the lineup against the New York Mets.

Moreover, the Rays debuted their City Connect Jerseys on that day, marking a line of demarcation in the season. In his first at-bat in a Rays' (new-look) uniform, he faced pitcher Jose Quintana in the bottom of the second, grounding out while pushing Jose Caballero to second and driving in Amed Rosario. DeLuca was off to a great start, but later in that game, things got better; he drove in two more runs and smashed a base hit, keying a 10-8 Rays victory over the Mets.

In his third start as a Ray, he went into beast mode against the Mets, crushing two hits and driving in another 3 RBI, along with one walk. This game was an instant classic, as the Rays were down by a run with one shot remaining; Randy Arozarena crushed one deep off closer Edwin Diaz to tie things up.

After advancing to extra innings, the Rays were once again down by a run in the bottom of the tenth with runners on the corners; DeLuca came up to bat while former Ray Jake Diekman was the pitcher. Already in an 0-2 count, DeLuca was fighting to stay alive, having consecutively hit four straight foul balls. However, teetering on the edge of failure, DeLuca took an 88 mph changeup outside and drove it on a line to center fielder Harrison Bader, who tried to make the spectacular diving attempt, which failed. Therefore, it was a walk-off triple for DeLuca, his first in his extremely young major league career.

Here is what Rays' manager Kevin Cash said about DeLuca's outstanding performances:

"He is a guy we were excited about in spring training before he got injured. He is a player that's going to show good defense, good at-bats, steal bases, and he's going to do a lot of things to help you win. "

Rays Manager Kevin Cash

After DeLuca drove in the winning runs against the Mets, he dropped a "baseball guy" quote himself:

"I was trying to protect by keeping it simple, just trying to put the ball in play and let the next guy do their thing, and it ended up with a very good result."

Rays outfielder Jonny DeLuca

DeLuca is going to be special for the Rays

After wrapping the series with the Mets with a sweep, DeLuca was not finished yet. He slammed his first homer as a Ray against the White Sox, finishing the game with two hits and four RBI. It's not easy to recall a new Rays player having more than 10 RBI in his first week with the team. DeLuca will be a very special player, as he delivered crucial offense when the Rays needed it the most.