Charlotte Knights

Former Providence, Clemson star Richie Shaffer gets big league call

Durham Bulls player and former first round draft pick Richie Shaffer, who played at Charlotte’s Providence High and Clemson, is expected to join the Tampa Bay Rays on Monday for his major league debut.
Durham Bulls player and former first round draft pick Richie Shaffer, who played at Charlotte’s Providence High and Clemson, is expected to join the Tampa Bay Rays on Monday for his major league debut. tlong@newsobserver.com

1B/3B Richie Shaffer has slugged his way to the big leagues.

The Tampa Bay Rays said they expect to call up Shaffer, their 2012 top draft pick who has hit 23 homers this season between Class AA Montgomery and Class AAA Durham, to make his debut Monday night against the White Sox.

Shaffer was removed from the Bulls game in the seventh inning Sunday, getting word of his pending promotion and hugs from teammates.

“I can’t even begin to describe the feeling,” he told the Tampa Bay Times from Durham. “It hasn’t really set in. Right now, I’m actually under control a little bit. It probably will really hit me when I get on the plane Monday.”

Shaffer, 24, will take the roster spot opened by LHP Matt Moore’s demotion to Durham, giving the Rays another right-handed bat as they face three straight lefties in Chicago. He can start ahead of lefty James Loney at first and provide a break if needed for 3B Evan Longoria, who was hit a few days ago on his sore left wrist. Shaffer has also done work in right field and was to make his debut there this week in Durham.

Coming off a disappointing 2014 season, Shaffer worked out vigorously to add 20-25 pounds of muscle. After opening this season back at Montgomery, he excelled after a late May promotion to Durham, hitting .264 with 16 homers, 32 RBIs and a .954 OPS in 55 games, though cooling lately.

“Here’s a guy with a plus tool in his power, the ability to drive in runs via the home run and hit the ball in the gaps,” Durham manager Jared Sandberg said. “With his bat speed, he can do that.”

Shaffer was selected to the All-Star Futures Game and said in Cincinnati he was trying not to think too much about a promotion but was confident he could handle the opportunity if he got it.

“I’m excited,” he said Sunday night. “But I’m not going to try to do anything different than the way I’ve played the game of baseball my whole life.”

The news capped a long day for Shaffer, who at 5 a.m. drove teammate Mikie Mahtook to the Raleigh-Durham airport so he could rejoin the Rays in Boston.

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