PORT CHARLOTTE - The Tampa Bay Rays made three more spring cuts today, reassigning three pitchers to the minors. RHP Mike Ekstrom, RHP Chirs Bootcheck, and LHP R.J. Swindle will all now report to minor league camp.
Bootcheck, who closed out Monday nights win over the New York Yankees at Charlotte Sports Park has had a rocky spring, going 0-2 with a 7.88 ERA while Swindle has posted a 3.00 era in 10 innings of Spring work. Both of these pitchers were non-roster invitees and are the epitome of organizational depth. Both were destined for Durham so their reassignment today is more of a formality than a surprise.
Ekstrom on the other hand was believed by many to have a reasonable shot at being the last man in the pen when the team breaks camp for the regular season. He was with the big club in the beginning of 2010 and his status on the 40 man roster, combined with injuries to J.P. Howell and Juan Cruz was thought to be enough to land Ekstrom with the Rays for at least the first month of the season again in 2011. Ekstrom however struggled mightily this spring, going 0-2 and posting a 10.13 ERA.
Ekstroms reassignment signals the end of that and answers the bullpen questions even further. With Ekstrom out of the running, the final bullpen spot will come down to Cruz, Corey Wade, Cesar Cabral, or Rob Delaney. Maddon has suggested to the press this week that Cruz will make the team as long as he is healthy and able to go on back to back days.
The Rays now have just 37 players left in big league camp.