Keep In Mind For Later | The Process Report

Keep In Mind For Later

By Jason Collette (originally published 6/22/10 @DockoftheRays)//

There is a pitcher on the Durham Bulls’ roster that is quite intriguing to say the least.  He is just 27 years old but he is already in seventh organization that includes two seasons as a starter for the Schaumberg Flyers of the Northern League.  He’s left-handed reliever, but different than any other left-handed reliever in baseball.  He throws five different pitches according to past interviews: an 84-85 mph fastball, cutter, change-up, slider, and a 55mph curve. No, that is not a typo. A 55 mph curveball. In all, he throws five pitches with below average professional velocity so one would expect his statistical line to be somewhat brutal. What if I were to tell you he has held minor league batters to a .203 batting average in 237 innings of minor league baseball and has given up just ten home run in that time span? Are you intrigued yet?

R.J. Swindle has been twice signed and once released by the Tampa Bay Rays and he is current working stellar relief down in AAA Durham but is not on the 40 man roster. Because he lacks the pure stuff that some lefty relievers have, he relies on arm angle and movement much like Randy Choate does for the Rays as the pen’s only lefty reliever. While Choate has an unusual angle and is very tough on lefties, Swindle is even more deadly.  By his own words he “starts almost off the rubber on the far left side and throw a low three-quarters arm motion so it is tough to pick up and makes my fastball look a bit harder and gets on people quicker.”

Just how deadly has he been against lefties in the minors? He has faced 307 lefties throughout his career and has yet to give up a home run to them. In fact, Denard Span is the only lefty in Swindle’s entire professional career that has gone deep against him in a career that includes 333 at bats against left-handed batters. Left-handed batters in the minor leagues have hit just .165 against Swindle in his career and he has a strikeout rate of 14.0 that includes 133 strikeouts compared to just 19 walks in 83.1 innings pitched. Compare that to Choate’s work in the minor leagues when he faced 289 lefties and they hit .231 against him while he had a 10.5 strikeout rate. If Choate was deadly as a minor league LOOGY, Swindle has been the Chuck Norris of left-handed relief in the minor leagues.

Swindle is not on the 40 man roster so the Rays would have to release someone from the 40 man roster to utilize Swindle at some point this season. Given the fact that Choate has been the only lefty reliever for the team all season with J.P. Howell on the shelf with his shoulder surgery but when rosters are allowed to expand in September, Swindle could become quite useful as a second LOOGY out of the pen as Maddon plays matchups in what will hopefully be a very tight divisional race. While Boston has struggled to play up to their traditional levels due to the lack of talent in their AAA system, the Rays front office has done an excellent job in stocking their AAA roster.

R.J. covered Dan Johnson earlier today, Swindle is still in AAA, and Winston Abreu is dominating the league permitting just 36 baserunners and one home run in 40.1 innings while striking out 63 and holding International League batters to a .147 batting average. What do all three of those players have in common? None of them are on the 40 man roster so it is as if the Rays have free and usable talented reserves if they are needed throughout the season that are demonstrating above average success at the highest level of the minor leagues. This is the reason why the Durham Bulls won the title last season and is well on its way to a return appearance in the playoffs as the club is currently 24 games above .500 to match its parent club.

For all of his minor league success, Swindle has had just two cups of coffee over the past two seasons for a total of 11.1 innings with Cleveland and Philadelphia so it would be nice to see him get another chance and make a difference in a divisional race late in the season attempting to shut down J.D. Drew or David Ortiz in key September at bats.


  1. jafrank wrote:

    If there is one thing that really excites me about this team’s ability to compete is the quality of our depth. DanJo, Winston and Swindle would be on any other 40-man roster and in the bigs. Can’t wait for our September call-ups.

  2. Jason Collette wrote:

    I agree – the amount of talent the club has been able to tie in at AAA is a huge advantage for the club over its competitors.

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