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Rays send Colome, Span to Mariners

Alex Colome - Tampa Bay Rays

The Tampa Bay Rays sent Denard Span and Alex Colome to the Seattle Mariners in exchange for pitching prospects Andrew Moore and Tommy Romero, the team announced shortly before Friday’s game at Tropicana Field.

ST. PETERSBURG — Veteran outfielder Denard Span was already dressed and ready for Friday night’s game when he learned the the news that he had been traded. Span, who was scheduled to lead off against the Orioles, was headed to Seattle along with mercurial closer Alex Colome.

Span, a Tampa native, admitted that he was a little disappointed in the news although not all that surprised. Span was part of the deal that sent longtime third baseman Evan Longoria to the Giants. His nearly $12 million salary was something that the cost-conscious organization had looked to shed since his acquisition.

“Honestly, I didn’t think I’d make it out of spring training,” Span said. “Once I got out of spring training I figured I would have at least until (the trade deadline in) July to play here. It definitely caught me off my guard.”

Span was batting .238 (34-for-143) with seven doubles, one triple, four home runs, 28 RBI and six stolen bases in 43 games. The 34-year-old Span was selected by the Twins in the first round (20th overall) of the 2002 amateur draft out of Tampa Catholic High School, where he played on the 2001 state championship team and was all-state as a junior and senior.

“I’ve enjoyed my time here,” Span said. “I never thought that I’d enjoy being home and playing for my hometown team as much as I did. It’s a bitter sweet day. More bitter than sweet.”

Colome had been frequently mentioned in trade talks since the winter meetings but no team seemed willing to pull the trigger until the Mariners on Friday. The hard-throwing righty was 2-5 with a 4.15 ERA and 11 saves in 23 appearances this season. Colome had spent his entire 12-year professional career with the Rays after signing out of the Dominican Republic in 2007, including parts of the last six seasons with the big league team. Colome declined to speak with reporters before leaving Tropicana on Friday.

Colome and Span were two of the last remaining tradeable assets left after an offseason fire sale that continued into the latter part of spring training. In exchange the Rays receive a pair of prospects at differing stages in their development.

Moore, who was selected by Seattle in the second round of the 2015 June Draft out of Oregon State University, was 3-1 with a 3.04 ERA (50.1-IP, 17-ER) in nine starts for Double-A Arkansas. He ranks fourth in the Texas League in ERA, and ranks among league leaders with 47 SO (fifth), 1.03 WHIP (second), .210 opponents’ avg. (third) and 9.66 baserunners per nine innings (second). He was added to the Rays 40-man roster and will report to Triple-A Durham.

Romero, 20, was a 15th round selection last year out of Eastern Florida State College. Considered the Mariners’ No. 26 overall prospect, he went 3-3 with a 2.45 ERA with 54 SO in nine starts for Class-A Clinton. He will report to Class-A Bowling Green.

In an unrelated move, the Rays also acquired right-handed pitcher Wilmer Font from the Oakland Athletics in exchange for minor league right-handed pitcher Peter Bayer. Font, who was 0-2 with a 12.71 ERA (24 ER in 17 IP) in 10 appearances with the Athletics and Dodgers, had been designated for assignment by the Athletics on Wednesday.

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‘Bullpen days’ become ‘bullpen series’

The evolution of the “bullpen days” continues. What started off as a novel approach to chew up innings with multiple long relievers has now become an all-hands-on-deck situation for the relief crew with pitchers being told to be ready beginning with the fifth batter of the game and situational matches in play from the first inning on.

“You just tell them to get ready,” Rays manager Kevin Cash said of his bullpen. “They’ve kind of conditioned themselves and they know how to get loose probably in under 15 pitches in the bullpen so we can buy a little time.”

Cash said he would use the same strategy usually reserved for “the fifth, sixth inning or whatever it is” as early as the second inning depending on the scoreboard.

Friday’s game against the Orioles was the first of three straight games the Rays will employ the new approach. Sidearmer Sergio Romo, who is also slated to start Sunday’s series finale, was the first man up in the opener at Tropicana Field. He was pulled after 2/3 of an inning after allowing an RBI double to Danny Valencia.

Could this novel approach to managing a staff become the new norm around a league that has been increasingly leaning toward bullpen specialists?

“If it works, it can become part of what we do,” Cash said. “I wouldn’t want to speak for any other team or what they are doing. Every team has a different pitching staff and different roster that they are trying to work with and I think it is apparent that some teams have more veteran starters or starters with a proven track record and maybe you adjust more towards them but given the group that we have, with so many young pitchers that are basically just getting started in their big league careers, we look at is a little easier for them to gain some traction and have some success.

“By the end of the year maybe we will look at it and say, ‘Hey, this guy performed really well and we want to give him an opportunity to start, or we like what we’re doing and stand pat.”

Eovaldi approaching return

The Rays’ pitching staff could get a much needed boost with the expected return of Nathan Eovaldi on Tuesday. The fireballing righty has been sidelined since spring training after having surgery to remove loose debris from his throwing elbow. It was a frustrating setback for Eovaldi, who has not pitched in a regular season game since 2016 after undergoing Tommy John surgery.

“It’s definitely frustrating, just as close as I was in spring training getting ready for the season and having things go the way they did and have to build all the way back up again,” Eovaldi said. “It is what it is so you accept it.”

In his latest rehab start for Triple-A Durham, Eovaldi took the loss after allowing eight runs in four innings. He was able to throw his fastball consistently in the upper 90s and even hit triple digits, according to Cash.

“Physically, I feel great,” Eovaldi said. “The results were definitely not what I wanted while I was down there but physically I feel good. Fastball, slider, splitter, curveball all feel good.”

“Given his workload and how many pitches he’s thrown in Durham, it’s time to get him back in the big leagues,” Cash said. “He probably has another start to get him that progression and get him as deep as possible and as built up as possible but we are excited to have him back. It’s been a long time coming for Nate and I know he’s chomping at the bit and eager to get out there and help us win some games.”

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