Jake McGee Finds Way Back To Stability In Tampa Bay Rays Setup Role

By Thom Tsang
Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

When one of the best relievers in the game comes out of the gate so poorly that his manager has to come out and defend him against calls for a minor league demotion, you know the situation is dire.

Yet, dire is exactly what Tampa Bay Rays‘ setup man Jake McGee had to deal with early in 2013, especially after he’d started his year off in very inauspicious fashion, being left in for a five-run shelling at the hands of the Baltimore Orioles. Walking at least one batter in seven of his first 12 outings, the lefty hit rock bottom with a pair of two-run single inning outings in early May which included a home run in each.

His numbers stood at an uncharacteristic 11.25/2.25 ERA/WHIP, not good enough for any major league roster, let alone being responsible for the seventh inning in a setup role. In short, he needed a break.

Not through the eyes of Joe Maddon, though.

As he’s accustomed to doing, the manager stuck by his embattled reliever through this mess, and what do you know — things started to turn around, and started doing so in a hurry.

Including his latest scoreless inning against the Boston Red Sox on Wednesday to seal a 6-2 victory for the Tampa Bay Rays (in his usual seventh-inning home, of course), McGee has allowed just one run in his last 17 outings, going back to May 7. And the one Red Sox batter he walked? It was his first free pass since May 14.

Oh, and he’s throw clean outings in nine out of those last 17 too.

So basically, it’s back to the program for the 26-year-old, who was arguably a better reliever than even Fernando Rodney in 2012 with a 2.0 fWAR season that saw him dramatically improve his control (6.64 K/BB).

Those numbers are back to where they should be now (10.00 K/BB in June this year), and as long as he avoids the walk, McGee’s elite stuff (12.18 K/9 in 2013) will continue to make sure that his ERA continues to tumble as the season goes on. He is unequivocally back.

Now, whether or now it’ll eventually lead him to his calling in the ninth inning for the Rays …

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