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ST. PETERSBURG — Needing a little bit of a mound makeover, the Rays’ starting pitching could get a boost from the return of 21-year-old right-hander Luis Patino.
Having ironed some things out in Triple-A Durham, Patino was added to the taxi squad Wednesday and will start for the Rays against the Indians Thursday.
But this may not be a short-term promotion. With inconsistent performances from the other pitchers who have been used in starter and bulk-inning roles — Rich Hill, Shane McClanahan, Ryan Yarbrough and Michael Wacha — Patino has an opportunity to carve out a big role.
“I don’t know if we have an exact message to give him, but we know we want him to start,” Rays manager Kevin Cash said. “He’s done good things in Triple-A. Young pitcher that we’ve got to find a way to give him a little bit of a lane, create a path for him to take off here for us. And hopefully, (Thursday) is the start of that.”
Cash was asked if the move was about giving Patino an opportunity or resting other arms, especially with J.P. Feyereisen headed to the injured list with shoulder tightness.
“No, it’s about giving him the opportunity and see if he can take off,” Cash said. “We talked about the starting pitchers yesterday. He’s got a chance — it’s tough to put pressure on a 21 year old — but he’s got a chance to be pretty good. And if he’s good, I would imagine he’s gonna stick around.”
Patino is 1-2 with a 4.87 earned-run average in six games for the Rays this season, four of them starts. He was knocked around for seven runs on seven hits in 5-1/3 innings in his last start for the Rays against the Blue Jays July 2 in Buffalo.
He allowed five earned runs in nine innings during his two appearances in Durham but felt like he ironed some things out.
“They wanted to lengthen me out a little bit, so they want to work me as a starter,” Patino said through Rays interpreter Manny Navaro. “So I worked on my control and my length. And also a few of the pitches out here to be able to control that and hopefully lead to good things.”
Brujan optioned to Durham
Vidal Brujan had a tough day at the plate Wednesday, going 0-for-5 with two strikeouts to lower his batting average to .077. It got worse after the game, when he was optioned to Durham.
The Rays have no shortage of infielders, and they will use the roster spot to activate Patino.
Shoulder tightness shuts down Feyereisen
Feyereisen said the only pitch he could throw without feeling tightness in his right shoulder Tuesday was his changeup.
“It’s one of those things that just kind of comes and goes, and depending on workload it can be there for an outing and then it couldn’t be,” said Feyereisen, who was placed on the injured list Wednesday and replaced by Chris Mazza. He was scheduled to have an MRI Wednesday.
“It’s just basically the past couple weeks, it’s been there the whole time, so I’ve just been trying to work through it and get through it and just yesterday was kind of the breaking point.”
Since being acquired as part of the trade with the Brewers for Willy Adames, Feyereisen has played a crucial role in the bullpen. “Certainly not ideal,” Cash said.
Catcher Mike Zunino (left hip flexor) drew a pinch hit walk in the ninth Wednesday, but Cash said the Rays wanted to give him another day of rest on the short turnaround with a 12:10 p.m. start. ... Infielder Yandy Diaz (neck spasms) was feeling much better. He did not start Wednesday but pinch hit in the ninth and struck out.
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