NS. PETERSBURG – When a player is banned from Major League spring training it often leads to an awkward conversation. There can be a mixture of disappointment and frustration, sometimes sadness and anger, before acceptance and determination set in.
When the Rays Head sent out of the big league camp this spring, manager Kevin Cash said the right-hander showed no disappointment.
“He said, ‘I would be selling solar panels if I weren’t here,’” recalls Cash.
In fact, Head was a door-to-door salesman in Arizona and almost ready to call it a career when the Rays called him. Left-hander Dietrich Enns also thought he might be nearing the end of his season before the Rays tore him out of the independent ball last summer. Righty JT Chargois had similar doubts about his future until the Mariners – his only suitor – offered a no-roster deal ahead of spring practice.
But there they were in the Rays bullpen earlier this week.
Head was hidden between Triple-A and the majors, with an ERA below 2.00 at each level. Enns has earned a place with his excellent performance as a starter in Durham. Chargois hasn’t allowed a hit in three appearances since Tampa Bay traded for him.
These are, of course, individual success stories, triumphs of personal perseverance. They are also professional scouting success stories, examples of how far the Rays will go to discover the talent and depth required to maintain their high pitching performance.
“It’s always worth it from a scouting perspective,” says Kevin Ibach, Senior Director of Pro Personal and Pro Scouting at the Rays. “As much time as we all spend on the streets and across the country seeing these guys, surely when some of these guys end up in Rays uniforms and succeed, it’s definitely worthwhile for all the work we’ve put in. “
The work has been necessary with all of the injury-related fluctuations in the Tampa Bay bullpen lately. As Bullpen trainer Stan Boroski said: “Boys get to know each other almost every day.”
Some of them should be back sometime this season, with McHugh likely being the first to return to Baltimore this weekend. In the meantime, the Rays carry on as always.
They had 20 different pitchers that made at least 10 appearances. Eight different pitchers recorded a save; two of them have since traded and three are on the 10-day IL. Your bullpen has put together a 1.49 ERA in the last 24 games and an American League total of 3.00 ERA this season.
“It’s crazy to see when essentially your main launchers go down … [Andrew Kittredge]who was there all season, ”said starter Josh Fleming. “But they are doing a great job. They are still ‘the stable’ they were last year. “
Same stable, different horses. Check out the pitchers in the bullpen Wednesday afternoon during the Rays win over the Mariners at Tropicana Field – and think about where they came from.
• Enns, a 30-year-old left-handed player with two major league games, was pitching and coaching an independent ball team in Joliet, Illinois when the Rays signed him on a minor league deal last summer. He had a 2.44 ERA with 75 strikeouts over 59 innings in Triple-A when the Rays called him out.
• Head, who spent nine seasons in the Minors waiting to be promoted to the Major League, which eventually turned 31.
• Chargois, a 30-year-old who was acquired as part of a deal with the Mariners that headlines Castillo’s departure. Chargois performed in Japan last season and had a 4.58 ERA over 85 appearances in the majors before making a non-squad reveal with the Mariners for more than a month this season.
• DJ Johnson, a 31-year-old right-handed man who signed with the Rays in 2010 as an undesigned free agent, he said, for “$ 1,000 and a plane ticket.” He had been sacked by three teams, spent a season in Japan and scored a 4.66 ERA in the majors before Tampa Bay picked him up from Cleveland last week. In his first two appearances with Tampa Bay, he scored two over two clean innings.
• Matt Wisler, a 28-year-old right-handed man who was traded five times, called for waivers once and was designated for transfer by the Giants in June. Since joining the Rays on June 11, Wisler has put together a 2.13 ERA with 33 strikeouts in 25 1/3 innings while using his slider 91% of the time.
• Ryan Sherriff, a 31-year-old left-hander who was selected in the 2011 28th round by the Cardinals. Last season he made 10 goalless appearances for the Rays. Sherriff retired from the game earlier this year to focus on his mental health, and he’s posted some key outs – with a parade – for Tampa Bay over the past week.
• Drew Rasmussen, a 26-year-old right-handed man who has been down a more traditional path since 2017, since being an unsigned Rays first-round draft pick in 2017. He worked his way through the Brewers system and eventually to the Tampa Bay Bullpen after joining the Rays in May alongside Feyereisen in the Willy Adames dealership.
“Nothing our front office does surprises me. You can find men wherever they can. They’re really good at it, ”said Boroski. “I think the things that we emphasize may be a little different from other people. And when you see good things and then use them as efficiently as possible, it usually works. “
Ibach praised the Rays’ “wonderful” pitching group, including pitching coaches Kyle Snyder and Boroski, and the club’s commitment to scouting – it gave the Rays the resources to employ sizeable staff across the country – as well as theirs Scouts. Work ethic and lack of ego.
Whether it’s the scouts tormenting their way through the 100-degree afternoons to watch the Complex League games, Scout Mike Brown, who watches a minor league salesman turned solar panel salesman, make one Bullpen session organized, or Ibach himself, who is sitting in the stands for the Independent League game in which he rediscovered Enns, the Rays invested time and effort to keep “the stable” full.
“You are doing a really good job. You work really hard, ”said Cash. “It’s not always the most popular job they have to go through to find these guys, sit on them and watch them. And then we let it run up and see if the scouts’ point of view perhaps coincides with the research and development point of view. And when it comes together, it’s a great reward for everyone. “