Rays Protect Two Promising Lefties

ST. PETERSBURG, FLA.—The Rays obviously didn't feel too good seeing lefthanders Kyle Lobstein, who was their second-round pick in 2008, and Braulio Lara, who was one of their biggest arms, selected in the major league portion of the Rule 5 draft.

But they felt very good about their decisions to protect two 21-year-old lefties who project even better in Felipe Rivero and Enny Romero. Rivero, who was 8-8, 3.41 in 27 games (21 starts) at low Class A Bowling Green, is considered the more polished of the two. Romero, who was 5-7, 3.93 in 25 games (23 starts) for high Class A Charlotte has the better stuff, including a 92-97 mph fastball.

"It's all about ceiling," farm director Mitch Lukevics said. "Our organization, through proper evaluation for us, thought, obviously, Enny Romero and Felipe Rivero had higher ceilings. And with that the decision was made to protect those young pitchers, two wonderful young pitchers who have what we feel is a good upside rather than some other players in the organization."

In Romero, Lukevics said, the Rays see a pitcher who is "big and strong with plus-plus stuff. He's a big arm with big stuff. There's still room for development but we feel there's a lot of upside there."

And though he has had some control problems, Lukevics added, "We are confident that he can throw strikes and will throw strikes."

Rivero is not as big or strong, Lukevics said, but has "a lightning quick arm with a good feel for command for all of his pitches."

In addition to losing Lobstein (taken by the Mets and then moved to the Tigers) and Lara (Marlins) in the major league phase, the Rays lost righthander Scott Shuman to the Giants in the Triple-A phase.

"We have a lot of pitching in our organization. We fairly evaluate this, and sometimes you might lose a player," Lukevics said.  "It's great in a sense, bittersweet more or less. We want to try and protect everybody that we have, but we can't."


• Jamie Nelson, a member of the minor league staff the last 13 seasons, including the last five as catching coordinator, was promoted to the big league staff, where his primary duties will be assisting hitting coach Derek Shelton. Nelson will also work with the catchers.

• In a pair of trades, Tampa Bay acquired outfielder Raul Mondesi Jr. from the Brewers for righthander Burke Badenhop, and traded infielder Derek Dietrich, their No. 8 prospect, to the Marlins for big league shortstop Yunel Escobar.