PORT CHARLOTTE, Fla.—From all the young arms the Rays brought to camp, the two who stuck around until the final week in competing for a bullpen job seemed to be somewhat of a surprise—Austin Pruitt and Jaime Schultz.
“They’ve been very intriguing,” manager Kevin Cash said.
While Schultz will return to Triple-A Durham, Pruitt earned a long reliever’s role with the Rays.
Though both were starters at Triple-A last season, they impressed the Rays greatly when converted to bullpen roles.
Pruitt, 27, is more of a control freak, showing the same trademark strike-throwing ability during the spring as he did in 2016, when he walked just 27 in 162.2 innings.
Schultz, 25, impressed with high velocity, working at 95 mph and clocking as high as 98.
Pruitt was a ninth-round pick in 2013 out of Houston, having earned his way there after pitching for the Navarro (Texas) JC team that won the 2011 Junior College World Series.
Though he, too, has been a starter his whole pro career, he has handled the transition to relief work well.
“I’m just trying to go out there and do my thing,” he said.
Schultz was positioned for a promotion at the end of last season, but was sidelined by a groin strain. Though a starter since being a 14th-round pick of the Rays in 2013, he had the experience of closing games at High Point University, and has drawn on that this spring.
“We’ve heard he’s pretty comfortable in any role,’’ Cash said.
The appeal of a bullpen role comes from 410 strikeouts in 325.2 innings across three levels in 2014-16.
“I just want to prove that I’m working hard,’’ he said.
If all goes well, his hard work could lead him to a big league spot with Pruitt.
• Catcher Justin O’Conner has quietly been one of the success stories of the Rays spring, overcoming back issues that looked to sideline him much of the last two seasons to be playing regularly and be ticketed for Double-A Montgomery.
•Adrian Rondon, the $2.95 million Dominican shortstop, will be shifted to third base on what will be a prospect-laden team at low Class A Bowling Green. Lucius Fox, the prospect acquired from the Giants in the Matt Moore trade, is slated to play shortstop there.
— Marc Topkin covers the Rays for the Tampa Bay Times