The Rays have signed left-hander Adam Conley to a minor league deal, Baseball America’s Chris Hilburn-Trenkle reports. Conley had previously agreed to join NPB’s Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles, but opted out of joining the team earlier this week.
According to a statement from the Eagles (hat tip to reporter Jim Allen), Conley decided against playing in Japan due to concerns over the country’s COVID-19 situation. Due to entry restrictions from the Japanese government, Conley had been unable to even arrive in Japan until late March, and those same restrictions prevented Conley’s family from joining him abroad.
This isn’t the first time that the coronavirus has directly impacted the southpaw’s career, as Conley was one of many Marlins players placed on the COVID-related injured list last summer due to an outbreak within the clubhouse. Conley ended up not pitching at all in 2020, after previously seeing some big league action in each of the previous five seasons.
Initially a promising starter in the Marlins’ rotation in 2015-16, Conley ran into some struggles and then turned to relief pitching, with some success in 2018 and then a rougher experience (6.53 ERA in 60 2/3 innings) in 2019. For his career, Conley has a 4.82 ERA, 19.7% strikeout rate, and 9.5% walk rate over 414 1/3 innings, all with Miami.
It remains to be seen what role Conley will take with Florida’s other MLB team, though given the Rays’ flexible approach to pitching, Conley could potentially be used in a number of different ways. He could be deployed in a traditional relief role or perhaps stretched out to be given a second look as a starter, or the Rays could use Conley as an opener, a piggyback starter, a long reliever, a swingman, or perhaps all of the above.