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The Rays bullpen following the J.P. Feyereisen trade

The Rays traded the injured righty to the Dodgers. Who can step up in his place?

MLB: Tampa Bay Rays at Chicago White Sox Kamil Krzaczynski-USA TODAY Sports

The Winter Meetings have brought changes to the Rays bullpen. LHP Brooks Raley — arguably one of the most effective members of the 2022 bullpen — was dealt to the Mets to make room for a Rule 5 acquisition in RHP Kevin Kelly.

At the time of this trade, the Rays may not have known about the Feyereisen injury. According to a team press release, Feyereisen, 29, underwent right shoulder surgery on December 7, performed by Dr. Keith Meister in Dallas. During the surgery, Meister performed “a general cleanup of the rotator cuff and labrum” but removed one of the team’s best closer options headed into 2023.

Last season Feyereisen was limited to 22 appearances (w/ two opens) and did not pitch after June 2 due to right shoulder impingement. Over three major league seasons with the Milwaukee Brewers and Rays, he is 8-4 with a 2.31 ERA (89.2-IP, 23-ER) in 83 games.

With more moves sure to come after a holiday hiatus, here’s a quick check-in on the Rays bullpen:

High Leverage

RHP Jason Adam
RHP Pete Fairbanks

Adam’s inclusion on this list is where hope springs eternal. Due to timing complications from COVID in 2022, he was an addition after a few players went onto the 60-day injured list, a blessing for the team’s overall roster construction process. The Rays can and will add, but it’s a matter of when just as frequently as who.

Will Adam come close to his 2022 performance? If so he’ll be a good partner for the (hopefully healthy) Fairbanks.

Lefty Relief

LHP Jalen Beeks
LHP Garrett Cleavinger
LHP Colin Poche

It’s possible Beeks (2.80 ERA last year) and Cleavinger (2.50 FIP!) belong in the high leverage category, and it’s also possible the Rays will continue using Poche as if he was a high leverage arm, but for the purposes of this exercise the southpaws are grouped together.

Righty Relief

RHP Shawn Armstrong
RHP Calvin Faucher
RHP Kevin Kelly

This section is the real mystery; each pitcher represents an unknown to some extent.

Armstrong is entering his ninth season playing in the majors after bouncing around a good amount. After being acquired at the trade deadline in 2021, it may be easy to forget he started with the Marlins in 2022 on a minor league deal, but returned to the Rays after a DFA in May last season, after which he overhauled his approach with some success.

Read More: Shawn Armstrong on enhancing his pitch mix

By the second half of 2022, Armstrong had a respectable 27% strikeout rate, 3.17 FIP, 3.08 xFIP and even had a 1.17 ERA over 7.2 innings as an opener as he was deployed strategically. Entering his age-32 season, he’s likely going to be important to the team in 2023 despite not starting the season with the Rays in either of the last two seasons.

Faucher when acquired got put on my personal watch list for the Rasmussen/Springs treatment of taking an underutilized relief arm and stretching them into a 2 TTO ace, but a 10% walk rate has that potential plan on hold. His strikeout rate dropped 7% when he moved up to the majors from Triple-A, so he’s still figuring things out.

And then there’s Kelly, who has never pitched in the majors and will have his work cut out for him. He’s a side-armer who fits well with the Rays “relief clock” and he struck out 75 hitters in 57 innings across Double- and Triple-A. That should help fill the low-leverage void at low cost for the Rays.

Starters who could pitch in relief

RHP Yonny Chirinos
RHP Luis Patiño
LHP Josh Fleming

Any name in this category could be viewed as trade fodder, but the Rays should want to maintain what depth they can since it’s almost inconceivable that none of their starters (Glasnow, McClanahan, Rasmussen, Eflin, Springs) will miss time to injury.

If the Rays want, all three of these arms could also change their trajectory to a full-time relief role that might offer a bump in quality in exchange for the length that could be provided.


RHP Andrew Kittredge (Tommy John surgery - June 2022)
RHP Ryan Thompson (Triceps injury - Sept 2022)
RHP Colby White (Tommy John surgery - April 2022)

Kittredge is the All-Star among the three and an experienced high leverage arm who could return late in the season, but honestly, none of these three arms should be counted on for 2022.

Thompson put together a neat but limited season in 2022, including a 3.80 ERA, 3.05 xERA, and 3.42 FIP — however, the medicals will add some question marks to his reliability moving forward. He pitched just over 42 innings in 2022 and saw his season ended by a triceps injury the team called a “stress reaction” that sure sounds like code for a worrying elbow problem, but as of now he’s expected to be ready this Spring.

Among the injured arms, prospect White — who was added to the Rays roster to protect him from the Rule 5 draft that brought Kelly into the fold — could return to action mid-season, perhaps even around the All-Star Break. The expectations for him internally at the Rays and externally in the blogosphere puts high expectations on White’s shoulders, but at best he’ll still need recovery time so it may not be realistic to imagine him impacting the major league bullpen.

Current Projected 2023 Bullpen

If nothing else happens between now and Spring Training at Disney World, here would be your most likely 2023 Rays Bullpen:

RHP Pete Fairbanks
RHP Jason Adam
LHP Jalen Beeks
RHP Shawn Armstrong
LHP Garrett Cleavinger
RHP Ryan Thompson
RHP Kevin Kelly
LHP Colin Poche