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Matt Andriese is becoming the Rays version of Chris Devenski

The righty is emerging as one of the league’s elite swingmen

MLB: Tampa Bay Rays at Boston Red Sox Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports

Matt Andriese has been one of the best relievers on the Rays this season. His numbers speak for themselves. His strikeouts have gone up, and his stellar walk prevention has actually improved. While his ERA sits at 3.45, his FIP lines up at 2.92. It’s safe to say that this performance has been no joke up to this point.

One factor that might be behind this surge from Andriese is the fact that he has almost entirely ditched his curveball. His change-up usage has risen to roughly 40%. Last year it sat down around 28%.

In 2018, Andriese has been nearly half and half between the usage of his fastball and change-up. While he still throws his curve and cutter, they sit at 6% and 8% respectively.

There has been a sudden shift in how Andriese has approached hitters this year, and it’s quite entertaining to see such a difference from one year to the next. As opposed to a 29% rate last year, he attacks RHB with his change-up 46% of the time this season. He is most certainly not afraid to use righty-on-righty change-up action.

A full-time move to the bullpen has been advantageous for him, as he’s able to fully rely on his two best pitches. That’s not to say Andriese isn’t starting material, but with the plan the Rays are currently working with, this is might prove to be the best way to use him.

One thing that come to mind instantly is, did the Rays use Chris Devenski as a blueprint for what Matt Andriese might be now? For the uninitiated, Devenski is the Houston Astros swingman supreme, a reliever who has thrown 206.2 innings since the start of 2016, and has had wild success, sporting a 2.31 ERA and 2.80 FIP during that stretch.

There aren’t many obvious differences between the two when it comes to career trajectory and their repertoires. Yes, Devenski does have a much livelier change-up (-7.31 HMov) compared to Andriese (-2.05 HMov). Devenski also employs a much different delivery that brings his body off the mound, and quite possibly could contribute to the otherworldly drop he gets on his change.

However, these two were both starters. Devenski in the minors, Andriese in both the minors and majors. Devenski is now the type of guy who might come in the fifth or the eighth — it doesn’t matter. It’s all about maximizing value, and making him more of a versatile threat. What exactly pushed Andriese out of the rotation in a time where the Rays’ depth had taken a turn for the worse? Could it be that this was their answer to the way the game is changing today?

The Rays are huge advocates of this “opener” idea, and frankly, a lot of us believe it’s the future. This might be a slight deviation for the time being because of the lack of major league ready depth in the organization, or maybe it’s just the way the game is changing. Regardless, Andriese might be receiving the grooming necessary to be the next “reliever-but-not-exactly-a-reliever” ace.

Andriese finds himself throwing two pretty good pitches: his fastball and change-up. Coming out of the bullpen limits the exposure for both himself, as well as the starters that might not find themselves going through an order more than three times.

He might not be exactly ‘what’ Devenski is. However, there’s hope for Andriese to fill in a role similar to what that righty in Houston does on a regular basis. The Rays find themselves in a good spot with someone who can come in, fill in the middle innings if necessary, not show too much, and move on to the next guy.