Tampa Bay Rays starting pitcher Jesse Crain has yet to appear in a game for his new team since acquired from the Chicago White Sox at the July 31 trade deadline. Rays manager Joe Maddon, though, feels that Crain can still become a factor in whether or not the Rays make it to the postseason. MLB.com's Patrick Donnelly reports that Crain threw a 50-pitch bullpen session on Friday, and Maddon considers that session a huge step in Crain's recovery from right shoulder strain.
Fifty pitches is a very large number for a reliever who has fewer innings pitched (36.2) than appearances (38). Friday's bullpen session was Crain's third, and Maddon said that if Crain feels well on Saturday, then he will step up to an undisclosed drill. Said Maddon,
"[Trainer] Ronny [Porterfield] said he did really well. We'll see how he feels [Saturday], and then if he feels well, then we'll set up the next part of the plan. We have an idea of what that's going to be, and I'll tell you all tomorrow after we find out that he feels well."
Donnelly believes that Crain may have "tipped his hand" when asked about what he will do next. Donnelly quotes the right hander as saying, "The last step is when hitters are in there. You put a little more on it, so that'll probably be the last hurdle to go for." Crain figures to throw again on Monday, and if it goes as well as predicted, he could see game action as early as Wednesday, September 18, when the Rays host the Texas Rangers in attempt to move into the top A.L. Wild Card position.
The Rays currently trail Texas by one game for that top wild card position but lead by 1.5 games over Cleveland for the second spot. The top wild card winner plays the play-in game at home, so the four-game Rays/Rangers series, which begins Monday, will very likely determine which position the Rays win.
Crain is 2-3 with a 0.74 ERA in 38 relief appearances, all for the White Sox. If he can pitch even half as well when he returns, then the Rays, who have struggled of late, will get a big boost toward their playoff run.
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