Let the record show I am firmly in the Everett Teaford camp. The lefty starter had a good run in Spring Training for one of the five open pitching slots, but was ultimately sent to Durham to continue being a starter.
He has an intriguing delivery, in which he deliberately changes arm slots per the batter's handedness and - as a mater of speaking - isn't that inspiring of a pitch. But he's interesting, and an underdog, and the Rays might sorely need him.
With injuries to all three left handed relievers in the bullpen, the only players left on the depth chart were Teaford and back-to-back Tommy John recipient and lefty reliever Jordan Norberto. To make room on the roster, however, the Rays demoted current long man Jose Dominguez. Even though Norberto has had a good run through the first two weeks in Durham, it was sensible to choose the guy who could go a few innings if need be.
Here's what I wrote about Teaford when he emerged as a strong candidate in March:
I have a really hard time watching Everett Teaford pitch without thinking, "What the hell?"
Teaford is equipped with a four- and two-seam fastball, but it's breaking pitches that help him succeed, along with a malleable delivery. To the benefit of his cutter and change up, Teaford drops his arm while facing lefties (as seen above) but still commands the zone. It's baffling to watch.
Then there's his crazy curve, his escape pitch which has been keeping hitters off balance all Spring, and quite servicable against right handed hitters:
Against left handed hitters it's a game of deception, but against right handed hitters, it will be fooling guys high with the curve, or inside with the rest of his stuff. That last bit will decide how well Teaford pitches at the major league level.
Teaford is approaching his age-31 season, works quickly, and hustles well on plays in the field. After an eight year career in the Royals system, he went abroad and pitched in Korea for the LG Twins in Seoul, where he found some success. You can see his hustle in this video:
When asked why he signed with the Rays, Teaford was quick to compliment the team's youth and smart trades, and said he was looking for a competitive club with a need at long relief. He signed after the Cesar Ramos deal, but coming to the club he made it clear he was content to fill any role, even if that meant playing a particular role (starter, reliever) in the minors to start the year.
The reputation of the Rays also preceded Tampa Bay in the signing, he called it a "no brainer" to be signed by the front office in place. You can listen to a full interview here from Rays Radio.
Thus far, Teaford's kept his name alive for major league looks through the Spring, in place of guys like Enny Romero and Burch Smith, who were both sent to minor league camp a week ago.
Can Teaford can keep striking out hitters like this?
I'm wary, because much of his game against the opposite hand requires pitches to sink or pitches to fool. I'm surprised his dipping approach to same-handed batters is consistent, but if you can paint the black with trickery you can be a major league pitcher.
Teaford's success will come by staying unpredictable.
As he faces right handed batters, his challenge will be to keep the breaking ball perfect on the low-inside corner. If he can induce weak contact or early swings when he goes inside, or if the pitches can sink when he needs them to below the zone, the curve will help him through tighter spots and make him quite serviceable.
Teaford is a big fan of bull riding. Something tells me he's most likely to ride the Bulls bus this season, but there's a non-zero chance he breaks into the major league roster this season as a second southpaw in the bullpen for long relief, and possibly some spot starts along the way.
And that just feels like Tampa Bay Rays Baseball.
Teaford will be available out of the bullpen tonight, and backing up another precarious start by Erasmo Ramirez. It's likely he'll get a few innings. When he does, hopefully Teaford can grab the Blue Jays by the horns and send the Rays on to their fourth consecutive win.
In a corresponding move, backup 1B Allan Dykstra was designated off the 40-man roster.