The Tampa Bay Rays recalled RHP Kirby Yates from the Durham Bulls Saturday, marking the first career big-league call-up for the Hawaiian reliever.
In 2014 the 27-year-old closer has been near-flawless, going 1-0 with a 0.36 ERA while recording 16 saves in 16 save opportunities. Over 21 appearances, spanning 25 innings, he has surrendered just one run on 10 hits and struck out 35. At the time of his promotion, he ranks third in all of Minor League Baseball in saves, while converting the most saves in all of professional baseball without blowing a save opportunity. Dating back to the 2013 season, and including the 2013 postseason, the reliever has converted each of his last 22 save chances.
Named the 2013 Tampa Bay Rays Minor League Relief Pitcher of the Year and a midseason International League All-Star, Yates went 3-2 with a 1.90 ERA while converting 20-of-23 save chances for the Bulls a season ago. The product of Yavapai College averaged 13.57 strikeouts per nine innings, the second-best mark among Triple-A relievers, while holding opponents to a .175 batting average, the fourth-best average against in the International League.
The younger brother of former Major Leaguer Tyler Yates, who spent parts of five seasons as a reliever in the New York Mets, Atlanta Braves and Pittsburgh Pirates organizations, he becomes just the second player in MLB history with the given name Kirby, joining late Hall of Famer Kirby Puckett of the Minnesota Twins. A native of Lihue, Hawaii, Yates was originally selected by the Boston Red Sox in the 26th round of the 2005 draft but did not sign, and was later signed by the Rays as a non-drafted free agent on June 19, 2009.
Yates becomes the 12th Durham player to be promoted to Tampa Bay this season, one more player than all of 2013. To make room for Yates on the 25-man roster, the Rays designated RHP Josh Lueke for assignment.