The Tampa Bay Rays have optioned lefty Adam Kolarek to Triple-A, per MLB.com’s Juan Toribio (via Twitter). Kolarek has been largely effective in the Rays pen this season, but the demotion is less likely about performance as it is part of the workaday fluidity of Rays roster management. Kolarek heads to Durham as the current league leader in appearances with 29, though the 19 2/3 innings he has amassed speaks to his type of usage. After a couple of spotless stretches, Kolarek has been touched up for runs in four of his last seven appearances, though it’s notable that Kolarek faced less than five batters in each of his clean appearances, where he tends to falter when pushed beyond that mark. When facing five hitters or more this season – something he’s done nine times – Kolarek surrendered runs seven times, including seven consecutive dating back to mid-April. When Kolarek’s deployment is limited to less than five batters, he’s been tagged for an earned run only once in 20 outings this season.
- With the lefty headed to Durham, Nate Lowe will join the big league club for the second time this season. The team has made the moves official. Lowe’s first stint with the team led to four starts at first base and five as designated hitter in early May. In that short sample stint, he hit .257/.289/.314 without a long ball. With Triple-A Durham he’s put up numbers more commensurate with expectations – .257/.390/.424 – though he has yet to tap into home run power at either level after blasting 27 bombs across three levels last season. Ji-Man Choi has been just okay at first for the Rays so far, so there may be room for Lowe to make his mark if can arrive hot to St. Petersburg. Still, the Rays value their flexibility, and Lowe profiles similarly to Choi at first/DH. Lowe is in the lineup today, set to bat fifth and play first while Choi DH’s and hits cleanup.
- Lowe’s presence is largely to make up for the injured Yandy Diaz, who has been a big part of the Tampa offense since being acquired from Cleveland this winter. Diaz has been out since May 20th with a left hand contusion. His comeback trail begins today, however, as he heads to Port Charlotte for extended Spring Training, tweets Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times. The Cuban-born Diaz produced more pop than projected for a groundball hitter through the seasons’s first two months. Nine home runs is the cover story, but his underlying power numbers are equally impressive (.500 SLG, .244 ISO). While such a prodigious power jump seems likely to regress to the mean at least somewhat, Diaz’s power surge has nonetheless preserved the approach the made him attractive to the Rays in the first place: above-average hard hit rate (44.1%), low strikeout rate (18 K%), and lots of walks (11.1 BB%). It bodes well that these numbers have held the line despite Diaz already eclipsing a new career high in plate appearances (180) while seeing a significant drop in BABIP (from .371 in 2018 to .263 in 2019). Every game matters for the Rays, who have been without impact at-bats with Daniel Robertson manning the hot corner in Diaz’s stead. Robertson, 25, owns an insufficient .207/.316/.293 slash line through 150 at-bats in 2019.
- In other recovery news, Michael Perez could begin a rehab assignment by early next week, per Topkin (via Twitter). An oblique injury has limited the Rays backup catcher to only 15 games this season. Starter Mike Zunino is now back, but stand-ins Erik Kratz and Travis d’Arnaud have both struggled to put together productive at-bats. Through 39 career games at the big league level this year and last, Perez owns a .274/.328/.385 line with one career home run. That might not light your world on fire, but it would still represent a pretty sizeable upgrade over the production the Rays have received from their catchers of late.