In a pair of moves yesterday, Rays’ fans got a glimpse of the pitching staff of the future. In the first move, Seth McClung was sent to the minors and replaced by Edwin Jackson. McClung was 2-10 in 15 starts, leading the league in losses and clearly losing favor with manager Joe Maddon and the front office. Maddon has made it clear that he wants McClung to pitch out of the bullpen but gave him every chance to prove he could be a major league starting pitcher. Now McClung will go to Durham and work out of the bullpen and try to return to the big league club in his new role. Jackson made one start earlier this season for the Devil Rays, picking up a no decision against the Rangers, in 7 innings. We have been pretty hard on Jackson since he was sent back to Durham as he has been roughed up in his last 7 or 8 starts. It turns out that Jackson was working on some mechanical issues including a new release point. Still, we have seen no indication that he has worked out these mechanical flaws. In his last start he did work into the 7th inning, but gave up 6 runs (5 earned) on 7 hits and 1 walk. He struck out 5. The only promising sign in the linescore is the 1 walk. That is a marked improvement from his previous starts. On the season, he has averaged 4.5 walks per nine innings in Durham. Still, we applaud the move as Jackson can’t be any worse than McClung has been and has a bigger upside, and now it looks like he will work on those flaws in the Tampa bullpen. In fact Tim Corcoran will take McClung’s spot in the rotation for the time being, with his first start penciled for Saturday in Atlanta. Corcoran has made one big league start. He pitched the season finale last year against Baltimore going 4+ innings picking up a no-decision.
In a separate move, the team dealt Joey Gathright and infielder Fernando Cortez to the Kansas City Royals for starting pitcher J. P. Howell. Gathright has proven to be the poster child for the old cliche, “you can’t steal first base”. In 55 games with the Rays, Gathright batted .201 with 12 stolen bases. He did have a 30 to 20 strikeout to walk ratio, which is decent for a potential leadoff hitter. However, his OBP was only .305 and that just doesn’t get it done. Howell, 23, is a left handed pitcher that was 3-2 with a 4.75 ERA in 8 starts for AAA Omaha. We have to be a bit skeptical about a pitcher that couldn’t even crack the starting rotation for the worst team in baseball even though he was a member of that rotation last season. He was a first round selection (#31) of the Royals in the 2004 entry draft. It appears as though Kansas City rushed him to the big leagues as Howell moved from single-A to the majors in his first full season of professional baseball. Last season he made 15 starts for the Royals going 3-5 with a 6.19 ERA. Fernando Cortez was batting .222 with no home runs and 8 stolen bases.