The Detroit Tigers optioned starting pitcher Robbie Ray back to the minor leagues following his Thursday afternoon start against the Texas Rangers. Ray made two starts in place of an injured Anibal Sanchez and one start because Rick Porcello had to be pushed back due to soreness in his side (Ray also made one relief appearance in between). He got knocked around in his final outing, but his overall line was a not-worse-than-expected 4.70 ERA (3.91 FIP, 4.77 xFIP) in 15.1 total innings of work with a 5.3 K/9 rate and 3.5 BB/9 rate.
Ray isn’t being sent down because of the poor outing, he’s being sent down because he needs to continue his development as a starter (and remain stretched out) and the Tigers no longer need six rotation members on the big league roster.
Taking his place is the Tigers’ best (and perhaps only) chance at an internal solution to their bullpen troubles (also Joel Hanrahan when he’s healthy enough for game action). Corey Knebel was selected in last year’s draft by the Tigers in the first round (39th overall) out of the University of Texas. He was placed in A-ball with West Michigan following the draft and went on to shred the Midwest League to the tune of 41 strikeouts in 31 innings with a 0.87 ERA as the Whitecaps’ closer. Knebel began the 2014 season in AA Erie where he threw 15 innings before making the jump to AAA Toledo. Between the two levels he’s pitched 19 innings with 27 strikeouts an 0.95 ERA . So that makes for a 0.90 ERA and a 12.2 K/9 rate across 50 career minor league innings.
It’s always hard to say how a rookie will perform as he makes the jump to the major leagues, but right now I’d be shocked if he has to go back down to the minor leagues any time soon. He has the potential to be a late-innings cornerstone, and soon.
According to D.J. Short of Hardball Talk, Knebel will be just the second player from the 2013 draft class to receive promotion to the big leagues.
He’ll be the second player from the 2013 draft class to reach the majors, as the Indians called up fourth-rounder Kyle Crockett for a brief stint last week.