ST. PETERSBURG -- With their bullpen decimated by injuries, the Rays added another experienced option for the stretch run by signing right-hander David Robertson to a Major League contract on Monday.
Robertson, who hasn’t appeared in the Majors since 2019, will report to Triple-A Durham to begin his time in Tampa Bay's organization. He most recently pitched in the Olympics for Team USA’s silver-medal-winning club, working three innings with a 6.00 ERA. He previously posted a 2.90 ERA over parts of 12 seasons in the big leagues with the Yankees, White Sox and Phillies before undergoing Tommy John surgery after making seven appearances for Philadelphia in 2019.
Manager Kevin Cash said Robertson will map out a schedule in Durham with Rays pitching coach Kyle Snyder and Triple-A pitching coach Rick Knapp. Tampa Bay wants to see the 36-year-old right-hander check a few boxes in the Minors -- working back-to-back games, wrap-around innings and so on -- before calling him up.
For that reason, Cash said the Rays have “probably earmarked September” for Robertson’s arrival, giving them about two weeks to evaluate him and a couple extra roster spots to accommodate him.
To make room for Robertson on the 40-man roster, the Rays transferred left-hander Jeffrey Springs to the 60-day injured list due to a torn ACL in his right knee. Springs sustained a right knee sprain on July 31 at Tropicana Field and felt continued discomfort during attempts to rehab the injury. He underwent surgery on Monday afternoon, performed by Dr. Koco Eaton, to reconstruct his torn ACL.
Springs played a significant role in the Rays’ bullpen before going on the 10-day IL, putting together a 3.43 ERA and a 1.10 WHIP with 63 strikeouts in 44 2/3 innings over 43 appearances.
Springs had hoped to return later this season, but he won’t be ready to go until Spring Training.
“It's a disappointment that he is done, for sure,” Cash said. “He's just been really good for us throughout the course of the season. Another one of our key guys that is down. And with some of the other ones that are down, there's a hope to come back. With him, we know we won't see him until next spring.”
The Rays have received good news about some of those rehabbing relievers. High-leverage right-hander Nick Anderson, who hasn’t appeared in the Majors this year due to a right elbow injury, pitched two perfect innings in his first rehab outings with Triple-A Durham. Anderson threw five pitches on Thursday and 14 on Sunday, indicating that he is just beginning his progression back to Tampa Bay's bullpen.
“I think in fairness to Nick, he's going to have a pretty lengthy buildup. He's still a ways away,” Cash said. “He didn't have a Spring Training whatsoever, so I would not be thinking much earlier than September.
Additionally, right-hander J.P. Feyereisen (right shoulder discomfort) struck out one batter in a five-pitch inning for the Rookie-level Florida Complex League Rays on Monday, and righty Ryan Thompson (right shoulder inflammation) struck out two in a seven-pitch frame. Cash said they will likely move up to Durham to pitch Thursday.
With 17 pitchers currently on the injured list, including recovering high-leverage reliever Pete Fairbanks, Tampa Bay’s bullpen shuffle continued Monday.
First, the Rays selected right-hander Chris Ellis from Triple-A Durham and optioned lefty Ryan Sherriff to the Bulls. To make room for Ellis on the 40-man roster, they transferred DJ Johnson (right shoulder sprain) to the 60-day IL.
Then, Tampa Bay placed right-hander Matt Wisler -- who has emerged as a late-inning option -- on the 10-day IL due to right middle finger inflammation. To take his place, the Rays brought back right-hander Louis Head, who had just been optioned on Sunday to make room for infielder Mike Brosseau.
“Gripping a ball didn’t feel ideal” when Wisler woke up on Monday, Cash said, so he’ll be shut down from throwing for a few days. However, the Rays are hoping that Wisler will only be sidelined for the minimum 10 days.
“Right now, we all feel pretty optimistic about that,” Cash said.
But given all the injuries and injury-related uncertainty in their bullpen, the Rays felt it was worthwhile to make the low-risk move to acquire the veteran Robertson. They saw him pitch prior to Spring Training, although he didn’t wind up signing with any club, then got a few looks at him while Team USA was training in North Carolina.
Robertson joins the organization with two unique ties to Tampa Bay. One, he played with Cash on the 2009 Yankees. More recently, he roomed with Rays No. 4 prospect Shane Baz at the Olympics.
“Excited,” Cash said. “Excited for him.”
Around the horn
• Right-hander Drew Rasmussen will start for the Rays on Tuesday night at Tropicana Field. Stretched out as a reliever, then bumped out of the bullpen to fill the rotation spot occupied by left-hander Ryan Yarbrough, who remains on the COVID-19-related IL, Rasmussen worked four strong innings on Thursday at Fenway Park. If he’s as efficient as he was against the Red Sox, he could add an inning to his workload against the Orioles.
“It's something that I've always done,” said Rasmussen, a starter until the Brewers moved him to the bullpen last year. “So getting back into a little five-day routine was pretty simple.”
• Baz started for Durham on Sunday for the first time since returning from the Olympics. The right-hander gave up one run on a homer and struck out three over three innings, before the recently optioned Dietrich Enns worked four hitless frames in the Bulls’ 6-3 win.
• Right-hander Chris Archer is scheduled to continue his rehab assignment on Tuesday with a start for Triple-A Durham.