The Rays have made a flurry of roster moves, as first reported by Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times (Twitter links). Right-hander Chris Archer has been placed on the 10-day injured list with discomfort in his left hip, while fellow right Shawn Armstrong has been designated for assignment. To fill the two open roster spots, Tampa Bay has activated right-hander Nick Anderson from the 60-day injured list and outfielder Brett Phillips from the 10-day IL.
Archer was solid over four innings in yesterday’s 7-2 victory over the Tigers, allowing one run on a walk and two hits during his brief start. However, Archer’s hip issue forced him out of the game early, marking the second time in less than a month that the injury led to an early exit from a start.
Injures have been a constant for Archer in recent years, and yesterday’s start was only Archer’s sixth game of the season. After missing all of 2020 recovering from thoracic outlet syndrome surgery, he spent over four months of the 2021 campaign on the IL due to forearm tightness.
While this latest trip to the IL might be just be a way to rest Archer and allow him to fully get over a nagging injury, it also has to call into question Archer’s availability for Tampa Bay’s playoff roster. Over the small sample size of 19 1/3 innings, Archer has a 4.66 ERA, 25.9% strikeout rate, and 9.6% walk rate — not eye-popping numbers by any means, though perhaps productive enough for a Rays team that seems poised to use a bullpen-heavy approach with their postseason pitching staff. Tampa will need as many quality arms as possible to keep everyone fresh for what the club hopes will be a more successful trip to the World Series.
That same logic applies to Anderson, who is finally set to make his 2021 debut after suffering a partial tear of his right elbow ligament near the end of Spring Training. It is a testament to the Rays’ incredible bullpen depth that their relief corps has remained among the game’s best even despite the absence of arguably their best reliever from 2019-20. A trade deadline pickup from the Marlins in July 2019, Anderson has been all but untouchable over 37 2/3 regular-season innings with Tampa, as he has posted a 1.43 ERA, a tiny 3.68% walk rate, and an absurd 49.26% strikeout rate.
The Rays leaned hard on Anderson during their postseason run last October, and it seems the increased usage took its toll on the right-hander. Anderson pitched in 10 of Tampa Bay’s 20 playoff games, and allowed runs in eight of his appearances. Most infamously, Anderson was the pitcher called in to replace a seemingly-cruising Blake Snell in Game 6 of last year’s World Series — Anderson immediately surrendered the Rays’ lead within two batters, putting the Dodgers ahead for good in the Series-clinching game.
Armstrong was a trade deadline pickup from the Orioles, and the veteran righty posted a 4.50 ERA over his 16 innings in a Rays uniform. Despite some solid peripheral numbers, Armstrong was again hurt by the home run ball, as he has already allowed five homers in his brief time with Tampa Bay. Armstrong has surrendered 10 homers in his 36 combined innings with Baltimore and Tampa this season, a jarring spike for a pitcher who gave up just 17 home runs over his 131 previous career frames as a big league pitcher.
Since Armstrong is out of minor league options, the Rays had to put him through DFA waivers in order to remove him from their roster. Armstrong has the right to elect free agency rather than accept an outright assignment to Triple-A, since he was already outrighted off the Orioles’ roster earlier this week. It is also possible another team simply claims Armstrong off waivers, in order to add another relief arm down the stretch.