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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.

Braves ink Blaine Boyer to a minor league deal

DENVER, CO - OCTOBER 2:  Relief pitcher Blaine Boyer #48 of the Milwaukee Brewers delivers to home plate during the seventh inning against the Colorado Rockies at Coors Field on October 2, 2016 in Denver, Colorado. (Photo by Justin Edmonds/Getty Images)
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The Braves have signed reliever Blaine Boyer to a minor league contract with an invitation to spring training, MLB.com’s Mark Bowman reports. Bowman adds that the right-hander has a “good chance” to make the Braves’ bullpen out of spring training.

Boyer, 35, spent the past season with the Brewers, finishing with a 3.95 ERA and a 26/17 K/BB ratio in 66 innings.

Boyer, of course, started his professional baseball career with the Braves as they selected him in the third round of the 2000 draft. Since the Braves traded him in 2009, Boyer has pitched for the Cardinals, Diamondbacks, Mets, Padres, and Twins along with the Brewers.

Report: Rays nearing a deal with Shawn Tolleson

ST. LOUIS, MO - JUNE 18: Reliever Shawn Tolleson #37 of the Texas Rangers pitches against the St. Louis Cardinals in the eighth inning at Busch Stadium on June 18, 2016 in St. Louis, Missouri.  (Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images)
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Update (6:48 PM EST): Topkin reports the contract will be of the major league variety.

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Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times reports that the Rays and free agent reliever Shawn Tolleson are close to finalizing a contract.

Tolleson, who turns 29 years old on Thursday, had an ugly 2016 season, finishing with a 7.68 ERA and a 29/10 K/BB ratio in 36 1/3 innings. He was one of the Rangers’ best relievers in the two seasons prior to that, however, which included saving 35 games in 2015.