The Rays are set to select the contract of right-hander Cole Sulser from Triple-A Durham, per Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times (Twitter links). They’ll also call up southpaw Anthony Banda as a September addition to their expanded roster — marking the former top prospect’s first big league action since undergoing Tommy John surgery last year. Tampa Bay will need to make a 40-man roster move to accommodate Sulser’s promotion.
Sulser will be getting his first call to the big leagues after grinding through parts of seven minor league seasons. The 29-year-old, originally drafted in the 25th round by the Indians back in 2013, joined the Rays organization as part of the three-team offseason deal that sent Edwin Encarnacion to Seattle, Jake Bauers to Cleveland and Yandy Diaz to Tampa Bay.
Given his age, Sulser unsurprisingly isn’t considered to be among the Rays’ top prospects, but he’s nevertheless enjoyed a terrific season in Durham. Through 66 innings, he’s tallied a 3.27 ERA with 12.1 K/9, 3.3 BB/9, 0.55 HR/9 and a 31.6 percent ground-ball rate. Sulser is no stranger to working multiple innings, as those 66 frames have come across a total of just 49 appearances. He’s “started” four games in Durham this season, though he’s functioned as an opener on each occasion; none of those four appearances lasted more than two innings in length. Sulser will give the Rays some additional depth in the ’pen and perhaps an option to open a game or two in front of a bulk pitcher such as Ryan Yarbrough, should the Rays feel comfortable with such an alignment.
As for Banda, who recently turned 26, he’s had mixed results since he and his newly repaired ulnar collateral ligament got back on the mound in late June. The lefty began his road back with a series of one- to two-inning stints and has since stretched himself out further. He’s totaled 33 1/3 innings with an ugly 6.09 ERA, but his results have improved over the past month, as well. Banda pitched to a 4.74 ERA with an 18-to-6 K/BB ratio in 19 August innings, and his most recent outing was his longest and arguably most successful: a five-inning effort in which he allowed a pair of runs on four hits and a walk with six punchouts.
Banda’s future with the Rays could very well be in the rotation — or at least in a Yarbrough-esque modified long relief role — but it remains to be seen how the Rays will utilize him down the stretch. They’ll surely keep a watchful eye on his workload, as the former top 100 prospect has the potential to be a significant contributor to their club in 2020 and beyond. At the very least, he’ll be a candidate to make some multi-inning relief appearances in the season’s final month. With a strong enough showing, he could even tempt the Rays into considering him for a postseason roster spot;