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Rays undecided about rookie Jake McGee’s role for 2011

Jan 24, 2011, 11:17 AM EDT

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After sitting out most of 2009 following elbow surgery Jake McGee returned to the mound last season as a starter with great success and then shifted to the bullpen in the second half before debuting with the Rays in September as a reliever.

However, now that McGee is two years removed from going under the knife pitching coach Jim Hickey told Joe Smith of the St. Petersburg Times that the Rays “still like McGee as a possible starting pitcher” because “you can’t have too much starting pitching and with that big body he’s got I just see a guy who’s capable of eating a lot of innings for a lot of years.”

Even after trading Matt Garza to the Cubs the Rays still have a full rotation, with top prospect Jeremy Hellickson expected to replace Garza alongside holdovers David Price, James Shields, Wade Davis, and Jeff Niemann. And they also still have Andy Sonnanstine, who started 72 games from 2007-2009 before spending most of 2010 in the bullpen.

Hickey called McGee “a really good candidate” to step into the bullpen following the free agent departures of Rafael Soriano, Joaquin Benoit, Grant Balfour, Dan Wheeler, and Randy Choate. It may be similar to Chris Sale in Chicago, where the White Sox believe he’ll eventually be a top-of-the-rotation starter but may end up keeping him in the bullpen for the short term simply because there’s a bigger immediate need there.

Baseball America ranked McGee as the game’s 37th-best prospect in 2007 and 15th-best prospect in 2008, and in 20 starts and 10 relief appearances between Double-A and Triple-A last season he posted a 3.07 ERA and 127/36 K/BB ratio in 106 innings while allowing just three homers.

  1. BC - Jan 24, 2011 at 12:10 PM

    Closer?

    • Jeremiah Graves - Jan 24, 2011 at 1:37 PM

      That makes a lot of sense, BC.

      I don’t know who else is ready to step into that role for ‘em right away, why not give McGee a chance to gas some fastballs in there late in a game. It makes sense.

      Although, given the Rays recent moves, I’m sure Keith Foulke is out there looking for work and might even sign for the league minimum.

    • jasoncollette - Jan 24, 2011 at 3:03 PM

      Fits the role….his off-speed stuff is very suspect but he gets a lot of swings and misses with his fastball and his breaking ball has been graded highly by scouts. With the rotation already crowded and Cobb, Torres, Moore, et al coming behind him, making McGee the closer now is a solid move.

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