Rays fans must be reaching the point of acknowledging that the season which started with so much promise is now falling apart for the Tampa Bay club. Standing at 16 games under .500 with less than 100 games to go, the team does not seem capable of turning the situation around. The losses of Matt Moore, Alex Cobb and Jeremy Hellickson to start the season proved too much to overcome for the floundering Rays. Although Cobb has returned and is pitching well and Hellickson will likely return this month, the injury bug hit struggling RF Wil Myers and C Ryan Hannigan. Even with the resourcefulness of Manager Joe Madden, the team has not been able to break out of its prolonged slump.
The Rays wasted a quality start by Chris Archer last night in a 5-0 loss to the Seattle Mariners. Archer gave up zero runs in 6 1/3 innings. Pitching against Felix Hernandez, Archer came up strong. Unfortunately, Grant Balfour gave up five runs in the ninth inning to seal yet another loss for the Rays. Balfour has given up five runs in his closer role twice this season. Archer has been pitching well recently. He has not given up any runs in three of his last five starts. Hopefully, the bullpen and the hitters can help him out in his next outing. To help alleviate the problems created by Balfour’s struggles, Madden announced today that the Rays will go with a closer by committee approach. Given that set up man Jake McGee has been pitching well, an enhanced role for the hard-throwing lefty would not be a surprise. Juan Carlos Oviedo could get some closer time as well.
As the Rays’ season continues to fall apart, finding bright spots for the Tampa Bay club is a challenge. One significant bright spot is the play of RF Kevin Kiermaier. He was called up after Myers went on the DL with his broken wrist. Known as a good outfielder, Kiermaier is also impressing Joe Madden with his bat. In his 15 game MLB stint, the young player sports a .359 batting average and has three home runs. Madden may have a difficult decision regarding playing time when Myers returns if Kiermaier continues to excel. Myers may have some DH in his future if Kiermaier’s bat continues to pop for the offensively challenged club.
Jeremy Hellickson went three innings in his first minor league rehab start. He gave up no runs and two hits. Hellickson threw 38 pitches in his first outing. His control was good, 25 pitches were strikes. Also making an appearance for the Rays’ Charlotte team was C Ryan Hannigan, who is nursing a sore hamstring. With the return of Hellickson by the end of the month, the starting rotation will be intact except for Matt Moore. If the starters can go deeper into games, the bullpen should be less stressed and the closer by committee might be successful until one of the group stands out.
Trying to get back into the playoff hunt is likely a tall order for the floundering Tampa club. Even reaching .500 seems a far off hope. With the Rays’ season continuing to fall apart in a downward trajectory, the Tampa Bay team could become a trade deadline player soon. A prospect-rich trade involving David Price could be on the way if the situation is not reversed quickly.
Commentary by William Costolo