Thu, 30 Nov 2023

Rays look for spark from infield prospect vs. Jays

Field Level Media
23 Sep 2023, 18:25 GMT+10

(Photo credit: John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports)

With their offense continuing to slump and a slate of left-handed pitching on the horizon, the Tampa Bay Rays made the move Friday to promote star prospect Junior Caminero.

The top player within the organization, the 20-year-old Caminero -- a right-handed-hitting shortstop and third baseman -- likely will be in the lineup when the injury-riddled Rays (94-61) face the Toronto Blue Jays (86-68) on Saturday afternoon in St. Petersburg, Fla.

In corresponding moves, Tampa Bay outfielder Luke Raley (cervical strain) was placed on the injured list while pitcher Trevor Kelley was designated for assignment.

After the Rays' 6-2 loss to the Blue Jays on Friday, Tampa Bay manager Kevin Cash announced that slugging second baseman Brandon Lowe had a fractured kneecap and would be out four to six weeks after fouling a ball off his right knee on Thursday.

With Rays left fielder Randy Arozarena also leaving the Friday game due to a sore groin, Caminero's debut is imminent.

After starting the year with Class-A Bowling Green, Caminero was bumped up in late May, continued his spectacular play for Double-A Montgomery and reached the majors without playing for Triple-A Durham.

Over his two minor league stops and 117 games in 2023, Caminero dazzled at the plate, batting .324 with 31 home runs and 94 RBIs while posting a .384 on-base percentage and a .591 slugging percentage.

Caminero, who projects as a third baseman once he physically fills out, is rated the No. 6 overall prospect in baseball by MLB Pipeline.

With left-handers Hyun Jin Ryu and Yusei Kikuchi lined up to pitch for Toronto on Saturday and Sunday, respectively, Caminero will be thrown into the mix.

"There's a lot of electricity there," said 20-year-old shortstop Carson Williams, the Rays' second-ranked prospect who played with Caminero this season. "He's going to bring a lot of energy to the game, a lot of pop and a lot of celebrations."

The Rays will give the ball to Zack Littell (3-6, 4.12 ERA) on Saturday, and he will look to improve on a solid September that has yielded nothing in his win column.

Over four starts this month, the right-hander is 0-2 despite a 3.33 ERA.

In his lone career appearance against Toronto, on May 22, Littell tossed one-third of an inning in relief and allowed two runs on three hits, including a homer by Daulton Varsho.

On Friday, Varsho went 2-for-4 with a homer and two RBIs in the Blue Jays' series-opening victory.

The top three in manager John Schneider's batting order -- George Springer, Bo Bichette and Vladimir Guerrero Jr. -- went a combined 3-for-13 with three runs, two RBIs, two walks and two stolen bases.

Schneider acknowledged discussions about moving the trio around in the lineup.

"There's definitely been some mixing and matching over the course of the last couple of weeks," the second-year skipper said. "We've talked about the options of trying to spread it out. ... It's tough (because) you don't want to totally rely on those three guys at the top of the order doing something every night.

"But again, that's why they're your best players."

Ryu (3-3 2.62 ERA) is 0-2 with a 3.05 ERA in four September starts. In five career starts against the Rays, the southpaw has no record but a sterling 2.55 ERA.

--Field Level Media

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