NEW YORK — The Tampa Bay Rays made a drastic move Sunday when they designated RHP Heath Bell for assignment to create space in the bullpen for RHP Nate Karns.
In doing so, they removed Bell, who is due close to $5 million from the Rays this season (a lot of money for the organization to eat), and kept RHP Josh Lueke, who is out of minor-league options and has struggled just as much as Bell.
“We were kind of strapped in this moment, and we had to do something about it,” Rays manager Joe Maddon said. “And that was what we felt was the best way to do it right now. ... There was a lot of back and forth. At the end of the day, when you have these meetings, those discussions, you have to take all factors into consideration.”
The Rays needed Karns, who was recalled from Triple-A Durham to add a fresh arm to an overworked bullpen. Karns, who didn’t pitch in the Rays’ 5-1 win against the New York Yankees, was optioned back to Triple-A after the game.
Bell allowed 24 hits and 14 earned runs in 17 1⁄3 innings. Lueke, who leads the team with 16 appearances, has allowed 25 hits and 10 runs in 18 2⁄3 innings and has allowed eight of his 11 inherited runners to score.
But the number that mattered, according to Maddon, were these: 36 and 29. Those are the ages of Bell and Lueke, respectively.
“Part of it is Lueke’s obviously a lot younger,” Maddon said. “From a scouting prospective, we still see a really big upside with him.”
Maddon used Yankees RHP Dellin Betances as an example of he meant. Betances, 26, was considered a bust as a major-leaguer until this season.
“All of a sudden he’s turning into a beast right here,” Maddon said. “I think he’s one of the better middle-inning guys and he has late-inning potential, also. At times you got to be patient with a more youthful player, and that’s pretty much it. ... We still see a pretty good upside with him. We still think if he gets everything together we’ll be rewarded by that patience.”
Bell was acquired from Arizona in the three-team trade that also brought C Ryan Hanigan to the Rays. He was expected to pitch near the back of the bullpen. He struggled, but with the amount of innings the bullpen has had to pick up this season, Maddon was not able to determine the right slot for Bell.
Maddon informed Bell of the move when the team returned to the hotel after Saturday’s game. Maddon said Bell took the news like a professional and sent Maddon a text Sunday morning complimentary of his brief time with the team.
“Total professional about the whole moment,” Maddon said.
MR. YANKEE STADIUM
RF Wil Myers extended his career hitting streak at Yankee Stadium to 13 games with a three-run inside-the-park home run in the third inning that broke open a 1-1 game.
The ball struck the top of the wall in center field, bounced off CF Jacoby Ellsbury and rolled along the warning track toward RF Carlos Beltran, who was not backing up the play.
“I knew I had a chance once I saw it kick off Ellsbury,” Myers said. “I saw it rolling down the warning track and I knew I had a good chance.”
Myers, who said he last hit an inside-the-park homer when he was 8, hit .285 on the road trip with two home runs, seven RBIs and eight runs scored. He said he finally feels comfortable at the plate.
“I definitely feel it,” he said. “To be able to turn on those two balls my last two at-bats (hard-hit line drive outs to left field) were big.”
WHAT A TRIP
Winning four of the last five games on the trip to go 5-5 certainly did wonders for the Rays.
“We lost a couple tough games in Chicago and that was difficult,” Maddon said. “But since then I think we’ve kind of come together a little bit better as a group and there’s a lot of belief within the entire clubhouse.”
CF Desmond Jennings, who had three hits Sunday, including his ninth double of the year, is batting .333 in his past 16 games. ... 2B Ben Zobrist had the day off and 3B Evan Longoria served as the DH. ... RHP Joel Peralta, who blew a save Friday when he allowed back-to-back home runs in the eighth inning, pitched a perfect eighth inning Sunday. ... With Sunday’s win, the Rays have won consecutive series for the first time this season.