Needing bullpen arm, Rays option Walls

July 24th, 2021

With their bullpen taxed and in need of another arm, the Rays optioned infielder to Triple-A Durham and recalled right-hander from Durham before Saturday night’s game against the Indians at Progressive Field.

Walls was the victim of a numbers crunch. Rays manager Kevin Cash said it was tough telling the rookie that he was going to be demoted.

Cash was impressed with what he saw from Walls both offensively and defensively. Walls was second among American League shortstops with nine defensive runs saved despite having played only 298 1/3 innings at short, compared to 833 2/3 for AL leader Isiah Kiner-Falefa of the Rangers. Although Walls had a .212 batting average, he had 17 walks in 131 plate appearances, and he showed an ability to lay off tough pitches and wait for good ones to hit. According to Cash, Walls had a veteran’s approach at the plate.

“We don’t have a message for [Walls] to work on something,” Cash said. “He is a Major League player. We know he can help us, and he is going to. It was a little bit of a roster crunch. We do need pitching. The odd man out kind of came up. It was not an ideal situation. It was not a fun conversation. … He will get down there, get playing. We know we have a good player to call on when there is a need.”

With Walls in the Minors, the Rays will start at shortstop. Franco has been swinging a hot bat lately, going 5-for-10 with an RBI in the first two games of the four-game series against the Indians. Franco is hitting .364 (16-for-44) on the road compared to .109 (5-for-46) at home.

“We have other guys that can play third and second, so Wander will stay at shortstop for the foreseeable future,” Cash said.

This will be Poppen's second stint in the big leagues this season. He appeared in three games for the Pirates in April and May and allowed seven runs (four earned) in 4 2/3 innings. The Rays purchased Poppen’s contract from Pittsburgh on May 18. In 17 games for Durham, Poppen had a 1.37 ERA.

“[Poppen] has a 93-95 [mph] fastball, strike thrower,” Cash said. “It’s no secret. We need pitchers, we need innings. We’ll find ways to navigate through [Saturday night's] game. We imagine he will be a part of it.”