The Rays have been without their best hitter in Evan Longoria for almost two months now. Now they’re going to be without their second-best for at least two weeks.
Matt Joyce, who leads the team in average, homers and RBI this season, was placed on the disabled list due to his back injury. He last played in Tuesday’s game against the Rays.
The Joyce move was one of six made by the Rays today. The team also optioned outfielder Rich Thompson to Triple-A and designated infielder Drew Sutton for assignment.
Added to the roster were infielders Brooks Conrad and Jeff Keppinger and reliever Brandon Gomes. Conrad was claimed off waivers from the Brewers on Thursday, while Keppinger had been on the DL for the last month due to a broken toe.
Gomes was needed to help out in the pen. With Joel Peralta dropping his appeal Friday, the Rays will play with a 24-man roster for the next eight days.
It certainly won’t be easy going for the Rays offense with both Joyce and Longoria out. Ben Zobrist figures to get most of his time in the outfield while Joyce is sidelined, leaving the Rays to pick between Keppinger, Conrad, Elliot Johnson, Sean Rodriguez and Will Rhymes for three infield spots every night.
Rob Biertempfel of The Athletic reports that the Pirates have decided to convert outfielder JB Shuck into a two-way player. Recent comments relayed from the club’s director of player development, Larry Broadway, indicated that the outfielder would be coached in developing his pitching skills while working at Triple-A Indianapolis.
Per Broadway, the change would be enacted to help the veteran outfielder develop some much-needed versatility in the majors, where he’s only ever been limited to outfield and DH responsibilities. Well, except for the two games in which he pitched an inning of relief: once, against the Nationals in a blowout 11-4 loss in 2016, then in a similarly painful loss to the Diamondbacks this past April. During the latter outing, he finished the game with a 13-pitch ninth inning after allowing just one hit and one walk.
Add to that one minor-league outing in 2012, and the 31-year-old Shuck has pitched just three times over the course of his 12-season career in pro ball. While he has three years of experience on the mound from his college days, he’ll need quite a bit of preparation to handle the kind of workload expected from a two-way outfielder/reliever: 20+ innings pitched over a season and 20+ games played as a designated hitter or position player.
Still, his lack of experience doesn’t seem to faze Broadway, at least not this early in the process. There’s no word yet on how soon Shuck would be expected to debut his new skillset on a major-league level.