Rough Spring debut for De Leon, Rays high on his potential

By Lindsay Liquori, Spectrum Sports
Last Updated: Friday, March 03, 2017, 12:55 PM EST

It's a pillar of the Tampa Bay Rays organization.

Good young pitching.

Rays brass brought in 24-year-old RHP prospect Jose De Leon hoping he is the next big arm to fit that description.

He is currently slated as the sixth pitcher in Kevin Cash's undefined rotation and struggled during his spring debut against Boston.  

He only last two-thirds of an inning, giving up 4 earned runs on 2 hits, with 2 walks and 1 strikeout.

Despite, the shaky outing, De Leon seems to be fitting in fine with his new franchise.

"Emphasizing pitching and young pitching," said De Leon, when asked about what impressed him about the Rays.  "Closer to home. Everything is better."

Much closer to his native, Puerto Rico, Leon was traded to the Rays from the Dodgers in exchange for 2nd baseman Logan Forsythe.

"We know that he can be just huge part of our team and organization for years to come," said Rays manager Kevin Cash. 

His arm is dripping with potential.

As the 3rd best prospect in L.A.’s organization, De Leon dazzled in his last five starts in the the minors.  He went 3-0 with a 1.56 ERA.  Overall in four minor league seasons he's struck out 446 batters with a 3.35 ERA.   

He got called up for his MLB Debut at the end of last season.  He played four games with Los Angeles finishing 2-0 with a 6.35 ERA.

“Just being in a big league club itself, is a dream come true," said De Leon.

But will he wake up from that dream with the Rays?

A crowded rotation may force him to start the season at Triple-A. However, De Leon shouldn't be house hunting in Durham.

"Whenever they feel that it's my chance to be in the Big League and join the rotation I’ll be ready," said De Leon.

Proving yourself. A new franchise. New teammates. It can all be overwhelming. To help him adjust, pitcher Chris Archer was the first to make contact before he reached Port Charlotte.

"The first guy to reach out to me was Archer," said De Leon.  "It was nice to have our ace reach out and it made me feel welcome and comfortable."

But the trade itself made made veterans uncomfortable. Like Evan Longoria. Publicly unhappy about losing Forsythe.  Something Kevin Cash won’t let trickle down to De Leon.

"That’s not really his problem," said Cash about the clubhouse backlash.  "It was a decision we made as an organization. We really cared about and valued Logan Forsythe quiet a bit. Saying that, we’re gonna take Jose in and value him just as much.