As they did late last August, the Rays are calling upon left-hander Josh Fleming to help stabilize a pitching staff plagued by injuries.
Tampa Bay added Fleming to the taxi squad before Tuesday’s game against Texas. He will be active Wednesday night, either starting or pitching after an opener against the Rangers at Tropicana Field. Fleming is effectively taking the place of Chris Archer, who is on the 10-day injured list with right lateral forearm tightness.
Fleming was the most likely choice for several reasons. One, he was already scheduled to pitch Wednesday at the Rays’ alternate training site, so the Rays opted to push veteran lefty Rich Hill’s scheduled start back a day to Thursday. Two, Fleming has done everything and more the Rays have asked of him since his big league debut last Aug. 23.
Down the stretch last season, Fleming provided a huge boost to the Rays’ rotation as he went 5-0 with a 2.78 ERA over seven outings, including five starts and two bulk-inning appearances. He looked sharp in Spring Training, too, saying he hoped to earn a spot on the Opening Day staff by pitching so well it would force the Rays’ hand.
Fleming did everything in his control to accomplish that goal, allowing only three hits and a walk while striking out eight in 8 2/3 scoreless innings over four outings. But Tampa Bay opted to carry a handful of short relievers while giving rotation depth options like Fleming more time to gradually build up their workload at the alternate training site in Port Charlotte, Fla.
Now with Archer sidelined, the Rays are asking Fleming to bolster their pitching staff once again.