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Rays planning to use rookie Jake McGee as a reliever

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Jake McGee was a starter for 128 of his first 129 appearances as a minor leaguer, establishing himself as one of the top pitching prospects around, but he shifted to the bullpen at Triple-A in the second half of last season and then made his big-league debut as a reliever for the Rays in September.

And today manager Joe Maddon told reporters that McGee will be competing for a bullpen spot this spring, which makes sense given all the free agent relievers the Rays lost this offseason and the fact that fellow prospect Jeremy Hellickson is expected to claim the final rotation spot alongside David Price, James Shields, Jeff Niemann, and Wade Davis.

I still think McGee has a chance to be a very good starter, but his spotty control will likely be less of an issue in short appearances and his durability is still in some question after missing most of 2008 and 2009 following Tommy John elbow surgery. As a reliever he can let it rip with a mid-90s fastball and high-70s slider, and after racking up 10.4 strikeouts per nine innings as a starter in the minors McGee has a chance to be a shutdown late-inning option from the left side. Don’t be shocked if he’s in the mix for saves before long.

Report: Mariners’ Taijuan Walker drawing “strong” trade interest

SEATTLE, WA - JUNE 08:  Starting pitcher Taijuan Walker #44 of the Seattle Mariners looks on from the dugout after completing eight innings against the Cleveland Indians at Safeco Field on June 8, 2016 in Seattle, Washington.  (Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images)
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Bob Nightengale of USA TODAY reports that the Mariners have received “strong” trade interest for starter Taijuan Walker. The right-hander is currently on the mend from tendinitis in his right foot.  He’ll throw a bullpen on Friday at Wrigley Field with scouts in attendance.

Walker, 23, has a 3.66 ERA with an 80/18 K/BB ratio in 86 innings this season. It’s his first bit of sustained success at the major league level. What’s arguably just as intriguing is the fact that Walker will be under team control through 2020.

The Mariners have been hovering around .500 for the last month and entered Thursday six games behind the first-place Rangers in the AL West and 4.5 games out of the second AL Wild Card slot, behind three other teams as well as the two Wild Card leaders. It’s enough uncertainty which could push the Mariners to sell.

Report: Mets, Brewers continue discussing Jonathan Lucroy

PITTSBURGH, PA - JULY 20:  Jonathan Lucroy #20 of the Milwaukee Brewers walks back to the dugout in the eighth inning during the game against the Pittsburgh Pirates at PNC Park on July 20, 2016 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Justin Berl/Getty Images)
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On Monday, we learned that the Mets offered to swap catchers with the Brewers, Travis d'Arnaud for Jonathan Lucroy. The Brewers, as expected, turned that down. The two still continue to discuss a trade involving Lucroy, Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports reports.

The Mets certainly could use some help at catcher. The club has gotten an aggregate .608 OPS from their backstops, the fourth-lowest mark in baseball, ahead of only the Pirates, Rays, and Indians. However, the Mets seem to be behind other teams — including a “mystery” team — in the bidding, according to Jon Heyman of Today’s Knuckleball.

Lucroy, who took Thursday off, is batting .300/.361/.486 with 13 home runs and 50 RBI in 371 plate appearances for the Brewers this season. He can become a free agent after the season if his controlling club opts against picking up his $5.25 million option for the 2017 season.