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Rays add Orix Buffaloes high leverage reliever RHP Jacob Waguespack

Waguespack recorded the final outs of a dramatic Game 7 in 2022, but struggled in 2023. Now he returns stateside hoping to right the ship.

Orix Buffaloes relief pitcher Jacob Waguespack (facing) embraces catcher Kenya Wakatsuki as they celebrate the final out in their season-ending victory over the Yakult Swallows to win Japanese profession baseball’s Nippon Series 4-2 at the end of the sixth game of the seven-game series at Meiji Jingu Stadium in Tokyo on October 30, 2022.
Photo by STR/JIJI PRESS/AFP via Getty Images

The Tampa Bay Rays have added right-handed pitcher Jacob Waguespack on a minor league deal with an invite to spring training.

Waguespack, 30, has spent the past couple of seasons pitching out of the bullpen for the Orix Buffaloes over in Japan. Prior to joining the Buffaloes, Waguespack had been drafted in the 37th round of the 2012 draft by the Pittsburgh Pirates and eventually made his way to the Major Leagues and pitched for the Toronto Blue Jays from 2019 to 2020. Overall, he made 27 appearances for Toronto — 13 starts — and compiled a 5.08 ERA | 4.87 FIP with a 18.6 K% and 8.9 BB%.

In December of 2021, Waguespack left the states to join the Buffaloes in the Nippon Profesional Baseball league. While with the Buffaloes, Waguespack took on a high leverage role in the backend of the Orix bullpen. Waguespack was trusted with these opportunities due to a sudden bump in his velocity that allowed him to reach the high 90’s (Waguespack fastball averaged in the low 90’s during his Blue Jays run). With his added velocity, Waguespack would actually lead the NPB in whiff% on fastballs.

As a result, Waguespack was an important set-up man for the Buffaloes when they secured the championship in 2022, finishing the season with a 2.97 ERA over 72.2 IP (nearly twice as many innings thrown as his peers in the bullpen). He would be credited with five saves, boasted a 10.0 K/9, and was trusted with recording the final outs of Game 7 of the Championship.

The following season Waguespack had a down year, with his ERA ballooning to 5.77 despite an even better 13.8 K/9, hinting that there might be more to the story.

Entering his age-30 season, Waguespack joins a crowded list of pitchers fighting for few (if any) undecides spots in a pretty much set Tampa Bay Rays bullpen, but if any team can right the ship on his interesting arm angle, it’s the Rays.