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Rays to sign Dana Eveland to minor league deal

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A small move that might matter.

Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

In a move sure to send ripples through the American League East, the Tampa Bay Rays will sign pitcher Dana Eveland to a minor league contract with an invitation to spring training, according to Chris Cotillo.

Eveland pitched 3.1 innings last season of 5.40 ERA baseball, backed up by a 7.33 FIP across ten game. He was released by three Triple-A teams in 2014.

And despite all that, this is actually a signing that may matter for the major league Rays.

The Left-handed One Out GuY ("LOOGY") might be the most specialized role in baseball. Lefty-specialists are cheap, they don't do many things well, and they don't contribute very many innings. Mostly you only notice them when you either have a great one or when you have none at all. And with C.J. Riefenhauser out of the organization and the health of Jonny Venters unknown, it's not clear that the Rays have another LOOGY in the wings if Xavier Cedeno were to get injured.

That's where Eveland comes in.

Once he was a prospect, ranked #7 in the Brewers system after the 2005 season, but those days (as well as his time as a starting pitcher) are long gone. In 2014, however, he apparently revitalized his career pitching for the NY Mets' bullpen. Over 27.1 innings he struck out 23.5% of the hitters he faced while only walking 5.2%, while getting a groundball 53.8% of the time. The result was a 2.63 ERA that SIERA (which considers groundball percentage) thought he deserved.

Eveland's work was evenly split between righties and lefties that season, but the success came mostly against the lefties -- 1.78 FIP compared to 4.71 FIP.

Despite that success, Eveland was not re-signed by the Mets, and instead joined the Red Sox on a minor league deal. He pitched well in Triple-A before being released and signed to a minor league deal by the Braves. He gave up two runs in 3.1 major league innings, and was later released to make room in the Braves' bullpen. The Orioles signed him, and he pitched well for 30.1 innings in Triple-A, but he did not get another shot at the majors.

Looking at his stuff since 2014, Eveland has mostly abandoned his changeup and curve, focusing instead on a four-seam/sinker/slider combo (on this graph, all fastballs are called sinkers, but the higher clump is the four-seam). His fastballs sit at 90 mph, with his slider just above 80 mph.

Eveland throws from a low arm slot, which you can see here:

This is the type of stuff that, given command, should give left-handed batters fits and get pounded by righties.

There's plenty of reason not to expect much from Eveland, foremost because he's bounced around Triple-A on minor league contracts last season. But there's also plenty of reason to expect that if all you need is a LOOGY, Eveland can do that perfectly well.