Prior to Sunday’s series finale against the Yankees at Tropicana Field, the Rays made a flurry of moves, including placing right-hander Oliver Drake on the 10-day injured list with right biceps tendinitis.
Drake has been a key part of the Rays’ bullpen and allowed a run in the seventh inning in game one of Saturday’s doubleheader. He has made five appearances this season and is tied for the team lead with two saves, but he has experienced some discomfort in his biceps.
“Missing some time in Summer Camp, I don’t know if we were able to give him a proper build-up and he hasn’t quite felt right,” said Rays manager Kevin Cash. “He’s so important to us and rather to try and work him back in a very controlled setting when our pitching is already pretty taxed, let’s do right by him and allow him the proper build-up to get his arm, his conditioning and everything ready to go.”
With the Rays in need of arms, the club recalled right-hander Ryan Thompson and selected the contract of right-hander John Curtiss. Thompson pitched two scoreless frames in Saturday's 5-3 win, serving as the 29th man for the doubleheader. Curtiss will be making his Rays debut after impressing during Spring Training and Summer Camp. Curtiss has made 18 big league appearances, 17 coming with the Twins and one with the Angels.
In addition to the pitching moves, the Rays activated outfielder Manuel Margot from the COVID-19 IL. Margot was initially placed on the bereavement list after the death of his father, but after traveling to the Dominican Republic, Margot needed to undergo intake testing before returning to play.
With Margot back and Curtiss on the active roster, the Rays needed to make some decisions with the 40-man roster. Left-hander Sean Gilmartin and catcher Kevan Smith were the two players the Rays designated for assignment in order to clear space.
Margot hit seventh and played center field in Sunday’s game against the Yankees.
“A lot has taken place for Manny here and we’re sensitive to that, but maybe playing and getting back into the flow of baseball will help ease his mind,” Cash said. “But I don’t think any of us can imagine or fully appreciate what he’s going through, the travel that he went through, and what he had to experience. It’s been a tough couple of days for Manny, and we’re going to try and be really good teammates for him.”
Smith delivered with a key two-run single in Saturday’s victory, and Cash said losing the catcher was “really tough” but that the team needed to prioritize adding pitching depth. The Rays are hopeful that Smith will clear waivers and return to the alternate training site in Port Charlotte, Fla., but as of now, the Rays will lean on Mike Zunino, Michael Perez and top catching prospect Ronaldo Hernandez.
“We got a lot of positive vibes on Ronaldo. Not sure if this is the most ideal situation for him right now to be playing that position,” Cash said. “But either way, you’re always concerned about your depth, especially at that position.”
Taxi squad additions
As part of the moves on Sunday, the Rays added Hernandez, outfielder Brian O’Grady, infielder Daniel Robertson and pitchers Aaron Slegers and Anthony Banda to the taxi squad for the road trip that begins on Monday in Boston.
Hernandez impressed during Summer Camp, hitting a pair of doubles and launching a home run off Trevor Richards during an intrasquad game. Banda and Slegers can both provide the Rays with multiple innings.