Utility man Motter pitches in for struggling Rays 'pen

After relievers allow a pair of late 3-run homers, position player gets final out in 9th

July 2nd, 2016

ST. PETERSBURG -- The Rays' bullpen was run dry Friday night, and facing a 10-run deficit, it wasn't worth burning another arm. Out from the dugout trotted utility infielder/outfielder Taylor Motter, who had already played six positions this season. He was going to play one more.

Motter had warmed up in the batting cage, thrown 10 pitches to get his arm loose. The bullpen pitching had let the Rays down for a second straight night, and Motter was somehow a bright spot in a 10-2 Rays loss to the Tigers.

"You just hope you don't go out in a game like that," said Motter, who allowed a hit and induced a flyout in the relief appearance that preceded him being optioned to Triple-A Durham. "We're losing big time, and you hate to see a game like that get away from us."

Danny Farquhar came in with two outs in the seventh and served up a three-run homer to Victor Martinez. Enny Romero came in to pitch the ninth, allowed two singles and then another three-run homer to Martinez. It was all less than 24 hours after the Rays' bullpen let a five-run, ninth-inning lead go by the wayside.

The Tampa Bay bullpen has a 9.41 ERA in the past 16 games. That's 48 runs in 44 1/3 innings pitched.

A supposed strength coming into the season has been the team's weakest link, even on a "very quiet" night offensively in which the Rays eked out only four hits.

"I think the bullpen right now is in a rut," manager Kevin Cash said. "The home runs are beating us up, especially when they're coming with guys on base. You give up two three-run homers, you're making it really difficult to win games."

The Rays have lost 14 of 16 games and have found few reliable bullpen pieces outside of closer Alex Colome, who hasn't pitched since June 19 and has since been placed on the disabled list. Romero, who had 1.93 ERA through the first month of the season, is now up above 5.00. Erasmo Ramirez, who had a 1.89 ERA on May 18, is now sitting at 4.35.

The Rays have struggled to find any consistency in their bullpen. And as a result, they have allowed at least five runs in 15 of 16 games. It's a stretch that has put the Rays 14 1/2 games off pace in the American League East.