How Rays' Jeffrey Springs evolved into a $31 million man
Published in Baseball
ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — The primary explanation for how Jeffrey Springs evolved from a fringy reliever who was dumped off big-league rosters three times and traded twice into a key part of a standout Rays rotation with a new four-year, $31 million contract is his fervent drive and determination to succeed.
Much the same way he got to the major leagues after being passed over by the major colleges following a stellar career at South Point (North Carolina) High. He wound up at Appalachian State, was drafted in the 30th round by Texas in 2015 and signed for a $1,000 bonus. He then bounced from the Rangers to the Red Sox to the Rays in a span of 13 months without much success (and a 5.42 ERA to show it).
“He’s brought a considerable amount of persistence to his career,” pitching coach Kyle Snyder said.
When the Rays found themselves short on quality starters a month into last season, they started to discuss transitioning Springs from the bullpen, where his swing-and-miss stuff — including a top-tier changeup — made him an effective weapon.
The left-hander, who had a breakthrough performance in 2021 until being sidelined July 31 with a right knee injury that required surgery, had shown in spring and early April that he had overcome his latest challenge, rehabbing and returning to top form.
Snyder and manager Kevin Cash first talked in mid-April about giving Springs a chance to return to starting, which he did in high school and college but as a pro only at the Class A level in 2016-17. The conversations expanded to include baseball operations president Erik Neander and general manager Peter Bendix, with input from the pitching development and medical staffs.
“I was like, ‘Look, I think this could be a good runway here,’” Snyder said. “He’s back healthy. We all recognize this was maybe a little bit cavalier, considering that he won’t be a full year removed from ACL surgery until August.
“But I trust Jeffrey, too. All the stuff that we had beneath him at that point on our motion capture (equipment), his delivery was working. He was working back into it in terms of getting the most output out of his delivery. We had a lot of really good foundation there to say, ‘Hey, listen, I think we can put some load on him at this point.’”
The Rays were cautious, knowing workload was the biggest potential concern. They stretched out Springs’ next three outings to 2, 2-2/3 and 3-1/3 innings before moving him into the rotation for a May 9 game at the Angels.
Springs, who grew up with “the ultimate dream” of being a big-league starter, was eager to make the switch and confident he would do well.
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