Jake Odorizzi has won the competition to become the fifth man in the Tampa Bay Rays’ already very strong starting rotation. The right-hander turns 24 on Thursday, and will become a fixture in a starting rotation for the first time in his career. Fortunately for Odorizzi, there will not be as much pressure on him as there may ordinarily be on a young starting pitcher. Joe Maddon is not asking him to carry the rotation on his shoulders, due to the fact that the Rays already have a plethora of pitching talent.
Maddon’s hope is that Odorizzi will improve throughout the season, and become a solid fifth man in the rotation. Odorizzi has pitched in five games in Spring Training, two of which he started. The young pitcher has put up pretty decent numbers, pitching twelve innings and allowing five earned runs. He beat out all the others that had been vying for the job, including Erik Bedard and Cesar Ramos.
Ramos will move back to his job as a long reliever, while it unclear what will happen with Bedard. If Bedard would like to stay with the organization, he will have to be moved to Triple-A where he will have the opportunity to prove himself. Given an injury, or poor string of performances by Odorizzi, Bedard could definitely get the chance to be promoted back to the big league level. The 35-year-old lefty, however, does have the option to opt out of his contract since he did not make the Major League roster.
Now that the Rays have officially established the members of their starting rotation and bullpen, they are fully ready to make the transition into the regular season. The Rays are less than a week away from their home opener against the Toronto Blue Jays on March 31. Their deep squad, which has been hyped up all offseason, will finally get the chance to prove that they are more than just a good team on paper.
There is no question that the Rays are going to be hungry going into the 2014 regular season after having their late season momentum halted in the ALDS by the Boston Red Sox. They face a tough group of teams in the AL East, and must prepare themselves for the marathon that is the 162-game regular season. Needless to say there will be unpredictable bumps in the road throughout the season, including injuries and slumps. The key for the Rays will be to use their depth to their advantage, and overcome any adversity that they may end up facing. Joe Maddon and the Rays have a ton of potential going into the regular season next week, and it is nearly time for them to prove whether they have the makings of a World Series ball club.