With playoff rosters being set tomorrow night, don’t be surprised if the Rays place J.P. Howell – out for the season following shoulder surgery – on their roster with intent to replace him at a later date. Keep an eye out in particular for Jake McGee to fill that vacancy.
The team set a precedent in 2008 using the disabled list trick to eventually place David Price on the playoff roster. He would come out of the bullpen in the postseason and recorded the final out in the American League Championship series. McGee, like Price, is a hard-throwing southpaw, but one whose future is likely within the same role. McGee’s secondary stuff is not as polished as Price’s was in 2008 and he has an elbow zipper to boot.
In 88 innings for Double-A Montgomery, McGee struck out more than one batter per inning and held a 2.53 FIP. The Rays promoted him to Durham, where he’s appeared in eight games (seven as a reliever) and he has continued striking out more than one batter per inning, but he has dropped his walk rate to fewer than one free pass per nine innings pitched. Obviously those ratios are skewed given the small sample sizes associated, but McGee looks major league ready.
Ostensibly, the rest of the bullpen would remain steady, with Andy Sonnanstine and Lance Cormier likely moving aside as Jeremy Hellickson and Grant Balfour join the ranks. Wade Davis could also find himself on the inactive list for at least the first round of the playoffs, giving the Rays the chance to carry 12 pitchers like normal with four being starters. Whatever the combination, the Rays’ pen has been a strength all season and could be even better over the rest of the season.