Justin Ruggiano, J.P. Howell Called Up to Rays; Dan Johnson, Rob Delaney Demoted

From the team press release:

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The Tampa Bay Rays have reinstated left-handed pitcher J.P. Howell from the 15-day disabled list. In addition, outfielder Justin Ruggiano was selected from Triple-A Durham. To make room on the roster, right-handed pitcher Rob Delaney was optioned to Durham and infielder Dan Johnson was designated for assignment.    

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Rob Delaney getting sent down for J.P. Howell is no surprise, as someone had to go from the 'pen and he hasn't impressed as much as Brandon Gomes has. Howell will give the Rays another high-leverage reliever (assuming he's still the same pitcher he was a year and a half ago), and his presence will allow Maddon to use Cesar Ramos in more of a traditional left-handed specialist role. This move optimizes and solidifies the Rays' bullpen, and I'm pretty excited to see Howell in action again. The Rays will likely take it easy with him to begin with, but it still feels really good to have him back in the 'pen.

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As for Justin Ruggiano, he has been impressive this season down in Triple-A. He's walking at his highest rate since 2006 (10%) and has reduced his strikeout rate to an all-time low (23%), and he's been blistering the ball (6 HRs, .398 wOBA). He's 29 years old and no longer a prospect, but you never know what can happen: maybe Ruggs has legitimately improved himself recently and become a much better player. It's probably worthwhile that the Rays give him a chance at least, and you could certainly ask for worse stop-gags.

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Dan Johnson will likely clear waivers and will be able to get consistent playing time in Triple-A to help work out his current issues at the plate. Meanwhile, Casey Kotchman will continue getting the majority of the playing time at first base for the Rays, even though he has a .589 OPS over the last 40 plate appearances (AKA, he's cooling off). We'll see how much longer Kotchman continues to produce at the plate.

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