Rays ink Adam for 'pen depth; McKay reports to camp healthy

March 17th, 2022

PORT CHARLOTTE, Fla. -- The Rays signed right-hander Jason Adam to a one-year Major League contract on Thursday, adding another intriguing option to a bullpen already overflowing with talented arms.

Adam’s split contract will pay him at a $900,000 rate in the Majors, with an additional $250,000 available through incentives in his deal, and a $300,000 rate when he’s in the Minors. The 30-year-old reliever reported to Spring Training at Charlotte Sports Park on Thursday morning.

“Everyone knows what the Rays are known for. They're known for making you better. They're known for winning,” said Adam, who will wear No. 47. “So where else would I want to be?”

To make room for Adam on their 40-man roster, the Rays transferred Tyler Glasnow to the 60-day injured list. Glasnow is expected to sit out this season -- but not all year, he hopes -- as he works his way back from Tommy John surgery.

Adam has spent parts of the last four seasons in the Majors with the Royals, Blue Jays and Cubs, going 6-4 with a 4.71 ERA in 79 career appearances. He boasts an impressive strikeout rate, with 95 in 78 1/3 career innings, but he’s also walked 4.5 batters per nine innings during his time in the Majors. He has one Minor League option remaining, so he could move between the Rays’ bullpen and Triple-A Durham this season.

Adam put together strong seasons in 2019-20, recording a 3.06 ERA and a 1.19 WHIP with 39 strikeouts in 35 1/3 innings over 36 appearances. Two years ago, his four-seam fastball averaged 94.8 mph with a 2,721 rpm average spin rate that ranked in the Majors’ 99th percentile. He also throws a curveball with above-average spin, a slider and a changeup.

“I think my stuff plays pretty well to most hitters. Where the game is going these days, a lot of fastballs to the top of the zone and breaking balls,” Adam said. “But I think I've added in the changeup now, which I really like as a tool. And when I'm attacking hitters early, getting ahead, just burying 'em quickly, I think that plays well.”

Last May, the righty sustained a brutal left ankle injury while shagging fly balls during batting practice with the Cubs’ Triple-A Iowa affiliate. Adam suffered an open dislocation and fracture of his ankle, which damaged multiple ligaments and tendons in his foot and ankle and left him couch-bound for four weeks, but he returned to the mound in mid-September and finished the season with the Cubs.

“Totally unrestricted, fully healthy. When I came back at the end of the year last year, if anyone would have bunted on me, it might have been trouble,” Adam said, grinning. “But now I've been doing all my cuts and runs and sprints and jumps, and in some ways, I feel like I can jump and run better than I had previously just because it's been a focus.”

Adam said the Rays attempted to sign him after the “scary” injury, when the Cubs removed him from their roster. Tampa Bay received the full endorsement of Aaron Slegers, Adam’s friend and now his teammate, which intrigued him. Adam returned to the Cubs, became a free agent and wound up with the Rays anyway.

“I was thrilled,” he said.

McKay reports
After having his Spring Training arrival delayed by the COVID-19 intake screening process, ninth-ranked Rays prospect  reported to camp Thursday morning. Understandably, the left-hander is hoping for better health this season.

“With 2020 and last year, a lot of stops and starts,” McKay said. “I want to go the full year this year and not end up on any injury reports.”

Coming off major left shoulder surgery in 2020, the 2017 fourth overall MLB Draft pick dealt with a left forearm flexor strain last summer then underwent thoracic outlet syndrome decompression surgery in November. McKay pitched 49 big league innings in 2019 after making his debut that June, and injuries have prevented him from returning to the Majors since. The 26-year-old said he’s “pretty much back to normal” now, however, and he already threw a few bullpen sessions leading up to Spring Training.

McKay admitted all the injuries have taken an emotional toll, something he discussed last year with a former teammate who dealt with long-term injury issues of his own: Brent Honeywell Jr. Now with the A’s, Honeywell came back from four elbow surgeries to make his Major League debut last April.

When McKay underwent the TOS procedure, the Rays announced the former two-way player would return solely as a pitcher. McKay said that was his focus while rehabbing last year, and he’s happy to come back in whatever role the club wants. He hopes to be ready for Opening Day, presumably in the Minors given all the time he’s missed, but he mostly just wants to get back on the field and to be healthy.

“It sucks being away from your teammates, seeing guys that I could have been playing with get called up and make their debut in 2021,” McKay said. “But at the same time, even if I'm sitting at home watching the game, I'm cheering them on, letting them know that I'm there and staying supportive that way.”

Workout notes
• Kevin Kiermaier (neck) took batting practice indoors and on the field Thursday morning, with Rays manager Kevin Cash reporting the center fielder looked “totally normal” after a few days of soreness and stiffness. Most likely, Kiermaier will ramp up his activity over the next few days and will play in Tuesday’s game at Charlotte Sports Park.

• Six pitchers threw live batting practice Thursday: Luis Patiño, Ryan Yarbrough and Jalen Beeks on the main field; and Matt Wisler, Tommy Romero and Calvin Faucher on a back field. Yarbrough’s velocity was up, with his fastball (which averaged 86.4 mph last season) in the upper 80s and his cutter (81.9 mph last year) between 83-86 mph. Beeks continued to impress in his return from Tommy John surgery, and Patiño flashed the electric stuff the Rays have seen in his early bullpen sessions.

Up next
The Rays will begin their Grapefruit League schedule Friday at 1:05 p.m. ET against the Red Sox at JetBlue Park in Fort Myers, Fla. Non-roster righty Chris Mazza is expected to start. Among the hitters with big league experience expected to be in the lineup are Taylor Walls, Josh Lowe, Vidal Bruján and Francisco Mejía. The game will be broadcast on MLB.TV and MLB Audio.