The Rays announced that they have signed a trio of righties to minor league deals, as relayed by team broadcaster Neil Solondz. Shawn Armstrong, Kevin Herget and Joe Wieland are now all in the organization, with all heading to the Triple-A Durham Bulls. (Wieland will get built up in extended Spring Training before joining the Bulls.)
Armstrong is the most experienced of the bunch and likely the one most recognizable to Tampa fans, as he spent time with the club last year. After being acquired midseason from the Orioles for cash considerations, Armstrong was eventually selected to the roster and logged 16 innings of 4.50 ERA ball for the Rays. The team may have found a way to unlock a new gear for him, as his strikeout rate shot up 33.8%, well above his career rate of 23.4%, though in an obviously small sample size.
He was outrighted at the end of the year and elected free agency. He signed on with the Marlins on a minor league deal and made the Opening Day roster. He wasn’t able to transfer his 2021 performance across the state, however, as his 6 2/3 innings with Miami this year have resulted in a 10.80 ERA and just five punchouts. The 31-year-old will head to Durham and see if the Rays can work their magic again and get him back to where he was last year.
Wieland, 32, saw scattered MLB action from 2012 to 2016. Appearing for the Padres, Dodgers and Mariners, he logged 52 2/3 innings over ten starts and a couple of relief appearances with a 6.32 ERA. He then spent a couple of seasons in Japan, followed by one in Korea. He spent the 2017-18 campaigns pitching for the Yokohama Bay Stars of the NPB, where he worked to a combined 3.80 ERA. With the Kia Tigers of the KBO in 2019, things didn’t go quite as well, with his ERA jumping to 4.75. In 2020, Wieland signed a minor-league deal with the Cubs. Of course, the pandemic ended up wiping out the minors, and he was unable to crack the big league roster. He doesn’t appear to have pitched anywhere in 2021. Although he’s made the occasional relief appearance, the bulk of his work has come as a starter, meaning he could take a slot in the Bulls’ rotation and try to earn his way into the big leagues for the first time since 2016.
Herget, 31, has yet to make it up to the show. He was drafted by the Cardinals in the 39th round in 2013. He worked his way up to Triple-A by 2016 but never got the call to join the big league team. After eventually reaching free agency, he was signed by Cleveland and spent last year with the Triple-A Columbus Clippers. He appeared in 28 games, seven of them starts, throwing 80 1/3 innings with a 4.48 ERA, 24.6% strikeout rate, 6.7% walk rate and 41.9% ground ball rate.