The Rays are planning more than just an early-season experiment with a four-man rotation.
Manager Kevin Cash said today they are looking to stick with that plan for the full season – using four starters on a regular basis and filling in on the fifth day with the multi-inning relievers they will have in their bullpen.
The four starters to begin the season are set to be Chris Archer, Blake Snell, Nathan Eovaldi and Jake Faria.
The Rays have a large group of talented young pitchers that are candidates for those multi-inning roles, including Anthony Banda, Yonny Chirinos, Jose De Leon, Chih-Wei Hu, Andrew Kittredge, Austin Pruitt, Ryan Yarbrough, and Hunter Wood, plus veteran Matt Andriese.
Under the plans the four regular starters still will work on a standard five-day routine, but the Rays will use several of the relievers to cover the fifth day, what they will call "a bullpen day."
And part of the benefit of that is using multiple pitchers who have different looks to only go through a lineup once, or twice at the most. That plays into the bigger picture strategy going around the game.
"It's a reflection of who we have available," Cash said. "We feel like we have a lot of good pitchers and we want to get them all their reps and not limit somebody, not get use out of that guy that gets kind of odd man out by not being in the rotation.
Cash earlier this spring said that was the plan for April and early May when the Rays have a lot of off-days. But Wednesday he said they are looking to do it that way for the full season, and how it works in the first six weeks will be key determiner in how they handle it going forward.
"Our plan, we're not going to five," Cash said. "We're going to try to stay at four. We're going to have some bullpen days in there. We're going to try and do that for a long period of time. We're going to learn a lot in the first six weeks."
As part of that plan to keep the bullpen stocked with fresh arms, the Rays could shuffle the pen on a somewhat regular basis with callups from Triple-A Durham.
Is this the Rays being innovative?
"Only if it works," Cash said. "If it doesn't, it's dumb."