The Rays are making a series of changes to their pitching staff prior to a big five-game series in Toronto that starts tonight (Twitter links from Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times). Three right-handers will be added to the roster: Cooper Criswell, Kevin Herget and Javy Guerra. Two other righties, Luis Patiño and Calvin Faucher, were optioned after yesterday’s game to open a couple of spots on the active roster. Left-hander Brooks Raley will open a third by being placed on the restricted list, ineligible to cross the Canadian-American border due to his unvaccinated status. None of Criswell, Herget or Guerra are on the 40-man roster, which is currently at 39. Raley won’t count against that number while on the restricted list, leaving the club still to open one spot. Speculatively speaking, they could transfer lefty Brendan McKay to the 60-day unjustified list in the wake of the news of his Tommy John surgery.
Criswell, 26, made his MLB debut last year with a 1 1/3-inning cup of coffee with the Angels. They placed him on the 60-day IL this year due to shoulder soreness and eventually lost him to the Rays on a waiver claim in July. Since that claim, Criswell has thrown 27 1/3 innings over eight games for the Triple-A Durham Bulls. He has a 3.95 ERA in that time with a 20.8% strikeout rate, 4.7% walk rate and 51.9% ground ball rate. He was designated for assignment in July, getting outrighted after clearing waivers. He will get the start for tonight’s game and could give the Rays at least a few frames. Each of his last eight appearances have been between three and four innings.
Herget, 31, spent many years in the Cardinals’ system and one in Cleveland’s before joining the Rays on a minor league deal. He was selected to Tampa’s roster in August but got designated for assignment before making his MLB debut. He’s thrown 91 2/3 innings over 19 appearances for the Bulls that year, making him another multi-inning option for the Rays. He has a 2.55 ERA for the season with a 24.7% strikeout rate, 3.8% walk rate and 35.9% ground ball rate.
Guerra, 26, has 34 innings of MLB experience so far, mostly with the Padres. He was traded to the Rays in April for cash considerations but was designated for assignment in May, clearing waivers and getting outrighted to Durham. He briefly returned to the team as a COVID substitute the last time the Rays traveled to Toronto. He’s been used in the more traditional single-inning reliever role, having thrown 41 1/3 innings over 43 Triple-A games this year. He has a 1.74 ERA in that stretch with a 31.9% strikeout rate, 9.8% walk rate and 47.1% grounder rate.
Thanks to tomorrow’s doubleheader, the Rays and Jays will be playing five games over the next four days, making it fairly logical for Tampa to add some fresh arms. Josh Fleming and Jimmy Yacabonis are also traveling with the team on the taxi squad, making them candidates to be the club’s “29th man” for the twin bill. Along with the Mariners, the Rays and Blue Jays are holding down the American League Wild Card spots, with all three teams within half a game of each other. That means these contests will be key in determining the postseason picture in a few weeks’ time. In this year’s new playoff format, the first round is played entirely in the home field of the top-seeded team, so there’s a meaningful difference between having the first Wild Card spot and the second/third.