ST. PETERSBURG -- Rosters for the Arizona Fall League were announced Tuesday, and the Rays will send eight players west to play for the Salt River Rafters.
"The Arizona Fall League is a great place for our players to get extra innings pitched, at-bats after the regular season -- it helps them all hone in on their individual areas that they can improve on," Rays farm director Mitch Lukevics said.
Highlighting the participating players from the Rays' organization are the Rays' No. 8 No. 9 prospects as ranked by MLB.com, left-hander Mike Montgomery and infielder Richie Shaffer. Montgomery came to the Rays from the Royals in the big James Shields trade. He is said to have three above-average pitches, but has been haunted by command issues.
The Rays selected Shaffer from Clemson in the first round of the 2012 First-Year-Player Draft. He has a power bat and has played third and first in the past. In addition, he is athletic enough to play right field.
Other players from the Rays organization going to the AFL include: Pitchers Grayson Garvin, Merrill Kelly and Matt Ramsey; infielder Ryan Brett, outfielder Todd Glaesmann and catcher Curt Casali.
"When you send kids out there, whether it will be Richie Shaffer, that we want to get him some more at-bats, which helps, or Grayson Garvin, who's a high pick, who had Tommy John surgery, we can get some more innings for him, or Mike Montgomery," Lukevics said. "We're getting him out there to work more on his cutter and get that developed as much as he can. Next year we're not going to work on some of these things where we can get it done now."
In addition to the players from the organization, Double-A Montgomery coach Ozzie Timmons will join the River Rafters as the hitting coach.
Rosters for the six-team league include 33 first-round Draft choices. This year's league also includes players from nine foreign countries -- the Dominican Republic (12), Cuba (6), Nicaragua (2), Venezuela (2), Colombia (1), Curacao (1), Germany (1), Mexico (1) and South Africa (1) -- and Puerto Rico (3).
Each Major League organization is required to provide seven players subject to the following eligibility requirements:
• All Triple-A and Double-A players are eligible, provided they are on Double-A rosters no later than Aug. 15.
• Each organization is permitted to send two Class A Advanced-level players in addition to the current allowance of two "A-exempt" players (who are under contract as of Aug. 15). Foreign players are allowed as long as the player is not on his native country's primary protected-player list.
• No players with more than one year active or two years total of credited Major League serviceas of Aug. 31 (including Major League disabled-list time) are eligible, except a team may select one player picked in the most recently concluded Major League Rule 5 Draft.
• Each team is allotted 20 pitchers, but only 15 are designated "eligible" each game day.
The Arizona Fall League is owned and operated by Major League Baseball. Games are played Monday-Saturday in five Cactus League stadiums in the Phoenix area -- Camelback Ranch-Glendale (Desert Dogs), Mesa Hohokam Stadium (Solar Sox), Salt River Fields at Talking Stick (Rafters), Scottsdale Stadium (Scorpions) and Surprise Stadium (defending champion Javelinas and Saguaros). Daily start times are 12:35 p.m. and 6:35 p.m. Opening Day is Oct. 8 at Scottsdale Stadium.
Struggling Hellickson optioned to rest for stretch run
ST. PETERSBURG -- The Rays optioned Jeremy Hellickson to Class A Advanced Charlotte on Tuesday to get him rested for the September stretch.
"He's well, physically, but we just thought that giving him a break would be really important right now," Rays manager Joe Maddon said. "Obviously, the more recent performances have not been great. And the fact that he is not injured, we thought the next-best thing to do would be to give him a break. And so we did that. ... He'll be ready to come back the first part of September."
Hellickson can return in as early as seven days, since Charlotte's season should be concluded by then.
Hellickson perpetuated a disturbing trend on Monday against the Royals when he failed to complete five innings for the fifth time in his last six starts. The right-hander was gone after just 2 2/3 innings and the Royals were already up, 5-0, and in cruise control en route to an 11-1 win.
He is now 10-8 on the season with a 5.21 ERA after getting off to a 10-4 start, which was fueled largely by his work from June 2-July 26, when he went 8-1 with a 3.17 ERA.
"We don't want him to throw [at Charlotte]," Maddon said. "Throw maybe a bullpen or something like that. Minimal usage with the arm. We think, or feel, as though he's going to be very important to us in September and October, hopefully."
Left-hander Jeff Beliveau was recalled from Triple-A Durham to fill Hellickson's roster spot. Maddon said he does not yet know who will start Saturday at Oakland, which would have been Hellickson's turn in the rotation.
Maddon noted that the options to fill Hellickson's slot will not be external, which means the likely substitute will come from Durham.
Meanwhile, Matt Moore is still scheduled to make a Minor League start on Thursday for Durham at Gwinnett.
"We think the weather is going to be better there," Maddon said after Tuesday's 6-5 loss the Angels. "We just don't want that to be rained out. That would really injure our plans. We just have to send him somewhere we believe he will pitch."
If all goes well, Moore is set to return on Sept. 3, which is David Price's day. Price would get an extra day.
Maddon not concerned about Myers' slump
ST. PETERSBURG -- Rays outfielder Wil Myers did not slow down upon getting called up from Triple-A Durham in mid-June, but he has recently hit the wall that many predicted.
Myers is batting just .167 with a .220 on-base percentage in his last 14 games after hitting .340 with a .392 OBP prior to that.
"He's missing his pitch, fouling it off and maybe chasing a little bit," manager Joe Maddon said. "But I see the same stance, bat speed. He has to play through it. We've talked to him about some small, technical things. It's nothing big. He looks a lot like he did when he was hot. Maybe his confidence has been dinged a little bit, but overall, I think he's fine."
Myers is still tied for first among American League rookies with 39 RBIs. Maddon, who constantly lauds Myers for the unaffected nature with which he has handled the promotion, feels he is handling the slump well.
"Before every at-bat, we have a conversation," Maddon said. "It can vary from what he did in high school, to the color of his shoes, to what's going on with his swing. None of that has changed. It's what happens when you play big league baseball. Sometimes, pitchers get the best of you."
Maddon added he does not feel Myers' dip in performance is related to AL pitchers compiling more complete scouting reports on the 22-year-old. Maddon has used Myers as the designated hitter in five of the last 11 games.
'American Legion Week' debuts in Rays' clubhouse
ST. PETERSBURG -- The Rays have started to expect the unexpected in their clubhouse this season, as a python, penguins and a magician, among other things, have shown up unannounced.
Tuesday's addition was not living but came in the form of an American Legion banner hung from the ceiling in honor of what Joe Maddon has dubbed "American Legion Week" at Tropicana Field.
After traveling to Kansas City to play a makeup game in the midst of a six-game homestand, Maddon will not have his team take batting practice on the field for the remainder of the series. The move is meant to take the Rays back to their American Legion League days, when there was little time to do much other than show up and play.
As the season nears its end and the Rays have just one more off-day, Maddon is also allowing his players more time to get to the ballpark, as Tampa Bay's clubhouse opened to the media 35 minutes later than usual.
"I think with not too many off-days coming up, it's going to be nice to have a couple days where we come in late," pitcher Chris Archer said. "It will be nice to relax."
Outfielder Matt Joyce and first baseman James Loney arrived Tuesday in shorts and T-shirts with just over two hours until first pitch.
"I absolutely love it," Maddon said. "That's exactly the spirit of American Legion week."
Angels manager Mike Scioscia, who served as manager while Maddon was his bench coach in Anaheim, saw no issue with it.
"We used to call it [an American Legion night] if we had a long night before," Scioscia said. "He just turned it into a week. Just get loose and play. It makes sense. We're always trying to monitor it, but he's letting his guys catch their wind, mentally, and it's a good idea."