No soda and a new pitch: Pagan's work pays off

April 28th, 2019

BOSTON -- has burst on to the Rays’ scene with three straight saves over the past week. The emergence might seem unexpected for the righty who began the season in Triple-A, but it is the product of the work he put in as preparation for this opportunity.

This offseason, Pagan took a two-pronged approach to his training. On the mound, he focused on establishing more consistency in the strike zone, particularly with his offspeed pitches. He honed in on improving the location of his cutter and worked on his curveball in order to expand his arsenal.

“That’s been a big pitch for me lately,” Pagan said of the curveball. “Just being able to show something else other than just a fastball or slider that I can throw for a strike.”

And then there was the soda.

Off the mound, he committed to a new diet. Pagan loves soda, but he’s cut back on the carbonated beverages, especially late at night. He replaced soda with water and has learned to like the change. Pagan also stayed away from carbs for the first few weeks of the offseason and has dropped more than 10 pounds.

“It was very hard, but I was pretty determined to lose some weight,” Pagan said. “It’s not that I was super overweight, I just didn’t feel athletic. I thought maybe shedding a few pounds, I’d feel a little bit quicker on my feet. So far, it seems to be working.”

Pagan has picked up saves on April 22, 23 and 27, most recently in the Rays’ 2-1 win over the Red Sox on Saturday. He has struck out eight in a total of six appearances this season, lowering his ERA to 1.29. In Sunday's 5-2 win, Pagan replaced starter Tyler Glasgow in the seventh and induced a flyout from Boston's Christian Vazquez -- the only batter he faced -- to end the inning.

While Rays manager Kevin Cash plans to stick with and late in games, Pagan’s effectiveness gives the bullpen extra depth.

“He’s been in some big, big situations and really come through for us,” Cash said. “Emilio has certainly proven over a week that he’s a really good option to have, whether in the sixth or the ninth, whenever.”

Wood returns to team

The Rays reinstated right-hander from the family medical emergency list on Sunday following the birth of his daughter. Righty was optioned to Triple-A Durham.

“I was happy that he was there to support obviously his daughter, his wife and the rest of his family helping out,” Cash said. “It’s good to have him back. I think, by everything he talked about, he did a good job of keeping his arm in shape in between his hospital visits with the baby. We’ll get him back out there and we don’t want to give him too much time off, so get him in a game here ASAP.”