The Tampa Bay Rays made a flurry of roster moves on Friday, placing primary catcher Mike Zunino on the 10-day Injured List with a left quad strain, promoting backstop Anthony Bemboon from Triple-A Durham, optioning INF/OF Andrew Velazquez back to Durham, recalling RHP Casey Sadler from the Bulls, and activating OF Austin Meadows from the IL.
Tampa Bay has now lost its top two catchers in the last 48-hours. Michael Perez was placed on the 10-day IL due to oblique tightness and replaced on the 25-man roster by Nick Ciuffo, who will serve as the Rays’ primary catcher for the time being. Ciuffo hasn’t established himself as an offensive option in Triple-A, where he slashed .236 BA/.272 OBP/.347 SLG/.619 OPS over 316 career plate appearances. He, however, does control the running game quite well — a 42% caught-stealing rate in his minor league career — and graded out as an above-average pitch framer in 2018, according to Baseball Prospectus.
The 29-year-old Bemboom has only played in eight games this season thanks to a thumb injury suffered during Spring Training. He had not played in Durham until April 24, but even then he has only played in five games. Bemboom is a career .249 BA/.344 OBP/.382 SLG/.726 OPS hitter in Triple-A and carries a 31% caught-stealing rate extending back to 2012. Per MLB Trade Rumors, he posted above-average marks in pitch framing in each of the past two seasons, as well.
Marc Topkin (Tampa Bay Times) suggested that Zunino could be out anywhere from three-to-five weeks due to the severity of the injury. Perez is expected to miss two-to-three weeks. The team could search for catching depth in the meantime.
Tampa Bay also activated Meadows after a stint on the IL due to a sprained thumb which he suffered on a headfirst slide into third base on a triple in an April 21st ballgame. The outfielder, who was instantly placed back into the lineup — hitting out of the leadoff spot — said he feels good and is ready to go.
Sadler had been sent back down on Wednesday, although he is eligible to return due to the Zunino injury. He will add a fresh arm to the ‘pen, as the Rays are planning to use an opener/bulk guy on Saturday. In order to make room for the right-hander on the 25-man roster, the team optioned utility player Andrew Velazquez back to Durham.