Reliever Joe LaSorsa was best known for his animated celebration of a key out for Team Italy in a World Baseball Classic game this spring.
But a strong start to the lefthander’s season at Double-A Montgomery and Triple-A Durham added something else to his profile: major leaguer.
The 25-year-old LaSorsa made his MLB debut on May 29, and he had a story of perseverance and determination to tell. The Rays drafted him out of St. John’s in the 18th round in 2019.
“It’s been a crazy ride,’’ LaSorsa said. “Everyone who knows me personally knows how much I had to fight.
“I was a late-round pick. I had to walk on in college. To throw in a major league baseball game and helping my team throw up zeroes and keeping the score close in a tight ballgame (in his debut) . . . it was surreal.
“I just am really glad that I stuck with it. I really worked my ass off for this. So I’m glad that this wonderful organization gave me the opportunity of a lifetime. And I’m glad I didn’t let them down.’’
There was a flip side to that. LaSorsa felt an obligation to family and friends who pushed him to keep trying even, for example, in 2021 when he was demoted from High-A Bowling Green to Low-A Charleston.
LaSorsa’s path also illustrates the potential value of lower-round picks. He was the 20th player the Rays drafted in 2019, yet he was the second player from that class to play for the Rays. Brett Wisely, the Rays’ 15th-rounder that year, played this season for the Giants.
Rays manager Kevin Cash called LaSorsa’s journey “a very cool story” and raved about his composure in a one-run game.
LaSorsa said his WBC experience helped.
“The WBC definitely helped a lot to calm the nerves down,” he said. “I think that was more of a shock to me than this. I was very composed out there.
“And I know that I have eight of the best guys in the big leagues behind me, so I felt really good.”
— Rising prospect Junior Caminero, the 19-year-old power-hitting third baseman acquired in November 2021 from the Guardians, was promoted to Double-A Montgomery after hitting .356 with 11 homers, 32 RBIs and a 1.094 OPS in 36 games for High-A Bowling Green.
—Third baseman Curtis Mead missed all of May at Triple-A Durham due to a small fracture in his left wrist. In 22 games to that point, he had hit just .221 with two homers and a .646 OPS.