ST. PETERSBURG -- The Rays acquired right-hander Matt Wisler from the Giants on Friday, adding another interesting arm to a bullpen that’s already deep and talented.
Tampa Bay received Wisler and cash considerations from San Francisco in exchange for Minor League left-hander Michael Plassmeyer, a solid starting pitching prospect who would’ve been eligible for the Rule 5 Draft this offseason if he hadn't been added to the Rays’ 40-man roster. Plassmeyer, a fourth-round pick of the Mariners in the 2018 Draft, had been pitching for Double-A Montgomery, and the Giants assigned the 24-year-old to their Double-A club in Richmond, Va.
Wisler was traveling from San Francisco to Tropicana Field on Friday and did not join the Rays’ active roster for the 4-2 win over the Orioles. He is out of Minor League options. Tampa Bay cleared a spot for his arrival on Friday night by optioning lefty reliever Ryan Sherriff to Triple-A Durham.
Wisler, 28, put together a 6.05 ERA and 1.29 WHIP in 19 1/3 innings over 21 outings this season before the Giants designated him for assignment on Wednesday. His peripheral statistics suggest he was due for more success, as he struck out 26 batters with only six walks and a 95th percentile whiff rate.
Additionally, Wisler is not far removed from an excellent season in the Twins' bullpen. Last year, the righty produced a 1.07 ERA and 1.15 WHIP with 35 strikeouts and 14 walks in 25 1/3 innings over 18 outings for Minnesota.
“I think it's one of those guys that we probably see some things that we like, and hopefully, with some messages and maybe a change of scenery, can get him going,” Rays manager Kevin Cash said. “We're pretty high on his stuff.”
Specifically, his slider. The Rays tend to find success with pitchers at the extremes -- arms with elite velocity, extension, movement or spin, one exceptionally dominant pitch or an uncommon ability to induce weak contact, for example. Sure enough, Wisler’s slider has accounted for 90.3 percent of his pitches this season, more than anyone else in the Majors who has thrown at least 50 pitches.
The Rays are encouraged by the projections they’ve seen on how Wisler and his slider will perform out of their bullpen, and even his former manager believes better days are in store.
“It was really tough, because there were some underlying things that he’s done really well,” Giants manager Gabe Kapler said on Wednesday. “I still think he’s a good pitcher. He’s striking guys out. He wasn’t walking a ton of guys. There was just some contact at more unfortunate times that turned into big innings, and it was just kind of tough for him to get out from underneath.”
Cash said Wisler will likely be used in a short-relief role, not as a multi-inning reliever. The Rays immediately installed right-hander J.P. Feyereisen into a high-leverage role after acquiring him from the Brewers in the Willy Adames trade on May 21, but they will presumably ease in Wisler with lower-leverage work.
Around the horn
• To make room on the 40-man roster for Wisler, the Rays designated catcher Deivy Grullón for assignment for the second time in three months. Grullón had been playing for Triple-A Durham.
• Shortstop Taylor Walls hit his first Major League home run on Wednesday at Tropicana Field. He said the club retrieved the ball from a fan, in exchange for a signed bat, and he plans to display it at home.
Walls said he thought he’d hit a few balls hard enough to get out before Wednesday’s game, so finally getting the first one out of the way was “a little relief off the shoulders.”
“Awesome. The energy was crazy,” Walls said. “Everybody [in the dugout] was laughing, just pounding me on the head until I took my helmet off. It was great, everybody happy, jumping up and down for me. It was a really good feeling.”
• The Rays came back from a trio of two-run deficits in their 9-7 loss to the Nationals on Wednesday, marking the first time in franchise history that they have overcome three multirun deficits in a game (regardless of whether they won or lost), according to Stats LLC.
• Catcher Francisco Mejía took a few grounders at first base before Friday’s game. When first baseman Ji-Man Choi was injured and placed on the 10-day injured list on June 4, Cash said Mejía could get some work in the infield in case the Rays needed someone to fill in while they’re short-handed on the position player side. Mejía played 10 games at third base in the Arizona Fall League four years ago and started one game there at Double-A.