The Rays have promoted two relief pitchers to the major league bullpen, Top-10 system prospect Chih-Wei Hu, who made his major league debut earlier this year in a transition to the bullpen, and Top-30 RHP Hunter Wood, who has not yet pitched in Triple-A.
Tampa Bay had room on the roster with the surprise injury to OF Peter Bourjos, who is suffering from “tennis elbow.” The other corresponding move was the demotion of No. 3 prospect Jose De Leon, a starter who was recalled in an emergency need for yesterday’s game.
With an off-day scheduled for this coming Thursday, and staring down the barrel of a loaded Texas Rangers offense and consecutive days of heavy bullpen use, the Rays must have felt a need for an extra reliever was more pressing.
Chih-Wei Hu was promoted in April during the Rays injury spell that sidelined four high leverage relievers, making two appearances, walking one, striking out one, and allowing one unearned run to score over 8 total batters faced.
Hu has made six relief appearances since his return to Triple-A, allowing an earned run in only one outing (a longball), and pitched multiple innings twice. Before his promotion to the Rays, Hu was a starter in Durham.
The twelfth Taiwanese pitcher to reach the major leagues, Hu has a 95-mph fastball that can tick higher, an excellent change, a 12-to-6 curve, a slider/cutter, and a palmball that acts like a change with two-seam movement. Given his arsenal, it’s hard to say what’s coming from Hu when he’s about to throw, but chances are he’ll be able to locate it.
Hunter Wood has a slight frame but a big enough fastball with plenty of downward plane. The 2013 draft pick also has a decent cutter, which can work against either hand, but hadn’t developed a legitimate change as of the end of last season, which gave him a bullpen projection overall, even though he returned to Double-A as a starter this season.
Six home runs allowed in nine starts at Double-A have inflated Wood’s numbers, where his continued 24% strikeout rate and 9% walk rate seem to indicate he is the same pitcher he was last season. In his most recent outing on May 24, Wood went 7.2 IP, striking out ten and walking two with only two earned runs allowed.
Wood’s promotion is an aggressive one, but similar to the promotion of earlier this season of Jose Alvarado, where a pitcher already on the 40-man roster got the call perhaps sooner than might be expected.
Both prospects promoted are in their age-23 season.
With these additions to the bullpen, the Rays are expected to keep Erasmo Ramirez in the starting rotation.