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Getting to know the Rays bullpen

As always, it is deep and good.

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Tampa Bay Rays v New York Yankees Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images

We talked earlier today about the Rays rotation, and one of the major themes was that the trio was not going to get deep into games. Against some teams, that is an advantage. Against a team like the Rays, not as much. In this run for Tampa Bay over these last few years, their most consistent quality has been an almost magical ability to find relievers on the scrap heap and not only make them work, but make them stars. This year is no different. Tampa’s bullpen is very righty-centric, with just one lefty in the bunch, but they are diverse in ways like pitching style, repertoire, and arm angles, which can be just as, if not more, effective.

Andrew Kittredge, RHP

Tampa Bay doesn’t really have a set closer and, maybe more than any other team, we can see any reliever at any point in the game. But Kittredge has been their best arm this year. He’s not exactly out of nowhere as he was solid in 2019, but he’s been on another level this year. He doesn’t miss a ton of bats, striking out “just” 27 percent of batters, but he has tremendous control and he limits damage by keeping contact on the ground. A sinker/slider type, he’s going to work down in the zone and it’s going to be difficult for anyone to get solid contact off of him.

Peter Fairbanks, RHP

Fairbanks was one of the faces of this bullpen last October, and while he’s taken a slight step back this year he’s still very, very good. He is more of a strikeout pitcher than Kittredge, striking out a full third of batters last year and 30 percent this season, but his control is not nearly as sharp. The comparison isn’t perfect, but think of him as the same type of pitcher (not in terms of talent, but approach) as Craig Kimbrel or Matt Barnes in that he will walk his fair share, but he also strikes a ton of guys out and when they do make contact it can be hard to square up. He’s more of your traditional modern reliever, with a power fastball up and a slider down.

Tampa Bay Rays v Toronto Blue Jays Photo by Cole Burston/Getty Images

Collin McHugh, RHP

The Red Sox signed McHugh last season, but he opted out of the COVID season and ended up signing with Tampa Bay this past offseason. He has been their signature out-of-nowhere dominant reliever. He is pitching like it’s 2018 again when he was in Houston, and finished with a 1.55 ERA and 2.12 FIP this year. He can go multiple innings, strikes out 30 percent of his opponents with a walk rate far better than league-average, and just for kicks upped his ground ball rate to its highest level since 2015. He’s not going to blow anyone away, but mostly working on his slider and cutter he brings a ton of movement with his pitches.

David Robertson, RHP

This will be a familiar name after his time with the Yankees. Robertson has missed the last couple of years after undergoing Tommy John, but he came back late this season and has earned a spot in this group now. He’s mostly cutter/curveball, and the Red Sox should be patient and hope his command is still rusty after all the time off.

J.T. Chargois, RHP

Chargois doesn’t just have one of the funnest names to say in baseball, but he’s also quite good. He’s another guy whose strikeout rate is more good than great, but he’s just hard to really square up on a consistent basis. Like Kittredge, he’s a sinker/slider type, and the Red Sox should be patient here because he will issue some walks if you let him.

Matt Wisler, RHP

The Rays took a chance on Wisler this winter after a stellar shortened season in Minnesota in 2020, and it’s paid off. The consistency hasn’t always been there for the righty this year, but his strikeout and walk rates are outstanding at 32 and six percent, respectively. He’s a really interesting pitcher in that you’re really only going to see him throw his slider, which he throws over 90 percent of the time. But we know there are pitchers who are still tough to hit even when you know what’s coming. The good thing with Wisler is he is extremely fly ball heavy, so it’s possible to run into one against him.

J.P. Feyereisen, RHP

The first thing about Feyereisen is he has the kind of name that I have to slow way down to make sure I get the spelling right. Too many E’s, imo. As for the pitcher, he’s probably going to be near the bottom of the depth chart. His sub-3.00 ERA is good, and he has a solid three-pitch mix, but the peripherals — 23 percent strikeout rate, 14 percent walk rate — suggest he may be walking a tightrope.

Luis Patiño, RHP

Patiño is one of the players who came back in the deal that sent Blake Snell to the Padres, and he’s going to be a key fireman in this bullpen this month. A future starter and current top prospect, the righty showed a tremendous ability to miss bats as a starter in the minors but it didn’t translate much to the majors this year. As a reliever, however, he has 11 strikeouts and no walks in nine innings, serving as their version of Tanner Houck, just with more prestigious prospect pedigree. Patiño, who can go multiple innings as well, is a fastball/slider pitcher.

Josh Fleming, LHP

Fleming is the lone southpaw in this bullpen, though I’d expect to see some of these other righties over Fleming in some of the bigger spots. That said, he’s the kind of guy they seem to have trouble with, not throwing very hard and not missing a ton of bats, but throwing a lot of junk that is hard to square up.

Michael Wacha, RHP

Wacha spent the year mostly as a starter, which did not work out very well. He finished his season with an ERA over 5.00, and he has major home run problems. Think of him as the Martín Pérez equivalent, there to soak up innings if the situation arises.