ST. PETERSBURG — The Rays made room on the 25-man roster Saturday for RHP Jeremy Hellickson, only it wasn’t the move most expected.
RHP Juan Carlos Oviedo was designated for assignment. That means LHP Erik Bedard is still a member of the bullpen despite having pitched only once since being removed from the rotation July 8 when Hellickson first returned from the disabled list.
Bedard was kept not only as insurance in case LHP David Price is traded this week, but also to ensure the Rays have someone who can start should something happen to another member of the rotation.
“I’m here to help in any way I can,” Bedard said before Saturday’s game with the Red Sox.
Yet it’s difficult for Bedard to stay stretched out since he can’t throw a long bullpen before a game in case he’s needed that night. Bedard said he doesn’t know how many innings he could pitch if he were needed to start a game in the near future.
“(It’s) very difficult, something he’s going to have to do on his own,” manager Joe Maddon said. “He’s been put in a very difficult situation. He’s handled it as well as it can possibly be handled.”
Bedard last started July 3 in Detroit. He lasted two innings after giving up three first-inning home runs. He pitched an inning of relief against the Blue Jays on July 12.
“What he’s going through right now is not easy,” Maddon said. “And we and I appreciate how he’s handled it.”
So why Oviedo?
Oviedo was signed before the 2013 season and spent the summer rehabbing from Tommy John surgery with the idea that he would replace RHP Fernando Rodney this season. That didn’t go as planned.
Instead, Oviedo found himself as a set-up man this season. Maddon eased him into the mix, and Oviedo was successful early on. But he allowed runs in nine of his last 17 appearances, and Maddon clearly lost faith in the one-time closer, who saved 92 games while with the Marlins.
“It was not an easy choice,” Maddon said. “But one thing we do have is bullpen arms, whether it’s here or in the minor leagues. So, just looking at the whole thing, trying to evaluate what you have and what you look like going forward, it was him.”
Peralta almost ready
RHP Joel Peralta, on the disabled list because of an illness with symptoms similar to Chikungunya virus (joint pain, high fever, rash), allowed a hit and struck out one Saturday while pitching for Single-A Charlotte at Dunedin.
Maddon said he expects Peralta to rejoin the bullpen Monday, which is the first day he is eligible to come off the DL.
“He should be back and ready to roll,” Maddon said. “I don’t anticipate any negatives there.”
Praise for Jennings
After Friday’s win, Maddon said CF Desmond Jennings is playing as well as Maddon has ever seen him. Jennings homered and scored twice in the victory.
Entering Saturday, Jennings was hitting .301 with eight doubles, three home runs, six RBIs and 11 walks since June 28.
“His command of the strike zone is really good right now, and when that happens he normally hits the ball well,” Maddon said.
Jennings has also attempted more bunts, which allows his speed on the bases to come into play. Maddon also said Jennings has improved his throwing.
“The one thing I’ve been on him about is, just play the game,” Maddon said. “And he’s playing the game well.”
More than 150 children attended the PLAY (Promoting a Lifetime of Activity for Youth) program Saturday morning at the Trop. Head athletic trainer Ron Porterfield and his staff provided instruction. The program had an emphasis on children with disabilities. ... Former Bucs and FSU linebacker Derrick Brooks will throw out the first pitch for today’s game in honor of his enshrinement Saturday in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.