Pitching is going to be a huge strength for the Tampa Bay Rays in the 2014 season. The team has already received a lot of acclaim for their deep bullpen, but the Rays’ starting rotation also appears to be one of the team’s biggest assets. In addition to ace David Price, the rotation as of now consists of Alex Cobb, Matt Moore, and Chris Archer. Joe Maddon has one more slot to fill, and the competition is heating up. Enny Romero and Alex Colome were designated to Minor League camp this weekend, which leaves four possible options to fill the fifth starter role in the Rays’ rotation.
Jake Odorizzi is only 23 years old, and is already showing promise as a future pitching talent. In two years in the majors, the right-hander played for the Kansas City Royals in 2012 and the Rays in 2013. He only pitched for 7.1 total innings in two starts with the Royals in the 2012 season. Last season with the Rays, he pitched in seven games with four starts. In his 29.2 innings of work, he went 0-1 with a 3.94 ERA and 22 strikeouts. He has pitched two scoreless innings in Spring Training thus far, and has been working with Alex Cobb on an impressive new changeup called “The Thing”. Joe Maddon has said that Odorizzi will likely return to Triple-A if he does not earn the fifth starting spot, because he believes that putting him in the bullpen may impede him from reaching his full potential.
Nathan Karns is another young right-hander vying for the coveted fifth rotation spot. He has very limited major league experience, and came to Tampa in a trade that sent Jose Lobaton to the Washington Nationals in February. Karns is a pitching prospect with a lot of potential, who spent most of 2013 in Double-A. In his season with the Harrisburg Senators, he went 10-6 with a 3.26 ERA and 155 strikeouts. In three innings of Spring Training work he has not given up any runs.
Cesar Ramos has been a long-reliever for the Rays since 2011, and has pitched in the majors since 2009. Last season Ramos pitched in 48 games, posting a 2-2 record with a 4.14 ERA over the course of 67.1 innings. The lefty has pitched in 3.2 innings over the course of two Spring Training games, and has allowed two earned runs. It is likely that he would return to his role of long-reliever if he does not win the starting job.
The final competitor for the fifth spot in the rotation is veteran starter, Erik Bedard. Bedard, once the ace of the Baltimore Orioles’ staff, has slowly declined since his peak in the 2005 and 2006 seasons. The 35-year-old lefty has pitched for Seattle, Boston, Pittsburgh, and Houston since being traded by Baltimore in 2008. Last season with the Astros he went 4-12 with 4.59 ERA. Bedard signed a minor league contract with Rays last month, and is hoping to get another chance to revitalize his career. He has pitched 4.0 innings so far in Spring Training, and has allowed three earned runs.
There is no clear front-runner in the race thus far, and we can be certain that this competition should be a lot of fun to watch throughout Spring Training. No matter who ends up winning the fifth slot in the rotation though, the Rays should feel very confident about their pitching staff for this season.
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