The Tampa Bay Rays have activated Jake McGee, their closer from last season. He will be with the team when they play tonight in Minnesota. To make space on the roster, they optioned pitcher Matt Andriese back to Durham.
McGee was out for the beginning of the season after having surgery to remove a loose body from his elbow. Last season, though, he was one of the most dominant relief pitchers in baseball, striking out 32.9% of the batters he faced while walking only 5.8% en route to a 1.89 ERA.
McGee didn't replicate those amazing strikeout and walk numbers in six rehab innings between high-A Port Charlotte and triple-A Durham, but he also didn't allow any runs to score, and the Rays believe he's ready to return. It will be interesting to see how manager Kevin Cash uses him. Will he step right back into a high-leverage appearance, or will he be given a few opportunities to get his feet wet before being tossed into the fire (I always prefer to have wet feet when in a fire)?
To whet your appetite:
Matt Andriese was sent to Durham to make room after unspectacular but solid work as a long-reliever and spot starter. I don't think that there's a ton to be inferred from the choice to option Durham. He threw four innings against the Yankees yesterday, which means that Andrew Bellatti, another young pitcher with the ability to go several innings, is fresher for the upcoming series. Erasmo Ramirez, who started yesterday, is out of options so sending him down would expose him on waivers.
As long as the Rays continue to have an incomplete pitching staff, and as long as Kevin Cash continues with his strategy of pulling his pitchers early before the opposing team has the chance to get a feel for them, there will be plenty of innings for Andriese, Bellatti, and any other pitchers with options to soak up. The Durham shuttle will remain active.
If McGee returns to form, it will strengthen an already decent back-of-the-bullpen for the Rays, as McGee, Brad Boxberger, and Kevin Jepsen should and have all been used to get high-leverage outs, Steve Geltz has begun to establish himself as a valuable bullpen arm as well, and both Brandon Gomes and Xavier Cedeno can be very good when facing their preferred handedness.