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Rays 2017 Season Preview: Dana Eveland

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Don’t laugh: Eveland is a potentially useful bullpen piece for the Rays in 2017.

Boston Red Sox v Tampa Bay Rays Photo by Joseph Garnett Jr. /Getty Images

Off-season signings of outfielder Colby Rasmus and Wilson Ramos have strengthened the Rays in a few key positions. As spring training approaches, it becomes time to figure out bullpen pieces, the role of bench players, and finding potential bargains on minor league pacts.

One of the pieces Tampa Bay already secured on a minor league deal is veteran southpaw Dana Eveland. The 33-year-old made 33 appearances out of the bullpen for the Rays last season, struggling to a 9.00 ERA while also battling control issues (7.4 BB/9).

Eveland has seen action in every season since 2005 with the exception of the 2013 campaign when he pitched for the Hanwha Eagles of the Korea Baseball Organization. In 2017, just as in every other season of his career, he will need to battle for a roster spot.

Background

A 16th round pick (469th overall) by the Milwaukee Brewers in the 2002 MLB Draft, Eveland spent two-and-a-half years in minors before making his major league debut in July 2015. However, Eveland struggled in parts of two seasons as a member of Milwaukee’s relief core, making 36 total appearances.

The following season, Eveland, who was traded to the Arizona Diamondbacks in the offseason, made just five appearances (one start) while posting a 14.40 ERA. Another trade, this time a six-player swap that sent Dan Haren from the Oakland Athletics to the Diamondbacks, gave Eveland another chance and he made the most of it.

Tampa Bay Rays v Oakland Athletics Photo by Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images

In 29 starts for the A’s, Eveland went 9-9 with a 4.34 ERA; he set a career-high in innings pitched (168), strikeouts (118), walks (77) and virtually every other category. Eveland also led MLB in four-pitch walks (27), so control issues predate his 2016 struggles.

From 2009-2013, Eveland failed to make more than 13 appearances in a single season and with the exception of his five-start cameo for the Los Angeles Dodgers in 2011, did not record an ERA lower than 4.73.

New York Mets

If Tampa Bay feels optimistic about Eveland, they will hope he replicates his 2014 performance out of the Mets bullpen. After signing a minor-league deal in the offseason, he joined the Amazin’s staff in early June and showed versatility and effectiveness.

In 27.1 innings, Eveland posted a sparkling 2.63 ERA and a career-best walk rate (2.0 K/9). Eveland also wasn’t afraid to throw as many as three innings in an outing or five pitches to record one out. It was a remarkable return to the majors for the veteran as he struggled in the KBO one year prior and did not land a contract until the final weeks of the offseason.

Atlanta Braves v New York Mets Photo by Elsa/Getty Images

“We begged everybody and the Mets were nice enough to say yes,” Eveland said (via NJ.com). “I had a tough year last year in Korea. It almost felt like this offseason I had been forgotten about.”

What to Expect

In the two seasons removed from his success in New York, Eveland has tallied 43 appearances but sports an unsightly 7.20 ERA. While Eveland brings experience that spans 10 MLB (and one KBO) teams across 11 seasons, he also brings uncertainty as he has made 27 or more appearances just four times.

However, Eveland remains a popular piece in the front office. While his solid minor league performance shows he can be an effective professional pitcher, it's his pitches that can be effective. As DRaysBay examined last April, Eveland’s sinker can produce extreme vertical break that can baffle opposing hitters.

After Alex Colome, recent signing Shawn Tolleson, and Brad Boxberger, the rest of Tampa Bay’s bullpen will likely be a revolving door in 2017. Guys like Xavier Cedeno, Danny Farquhar, Erasmo Ramirez, and Enny Romero will likely round out the middle relief group.

But, an injury to any of them could open that revolving door to Eveland.