Hernandez in rotation, will pitch third
The Rays picked Roberto Hernandez for the final spot in their rotation and will move Jeff Niemann to the bullpen.
Hernandez will pitch third, behind David Price and Jeremy Hellickson. Matt Moore is fourth and Alex Cobb fifth.
"Great competition between the two of them this camp. Took us a long time to deliberate regarding how exactly to do this because they've both been very impressive, we think,'' manager Joe Maddon said. "Primarily it came down to, with Jeff, we think he needs to continue to build up some arm strength. Pitched really well. Everything was in good order -- the breaking ball, curveball for strikes, split, everything was really good, his cutter, all that stuff was working. We're a little bit -- I don't want to say concerned, but we believe there's more in there velocity-wise, if we give him more time that you're eventually going to see that come back to him. That was it.''
Hernandez said he was pleased with the decision, feels good and is close to his top form.
"Very, very happy,'' he said.
Niemann said he was disappointed, felt he did all he could this spring to win a job but will take on the challenge of his new role.
"It's definitely disappointing,'' he said. "I felt like we presented a pretty good case and you can look at my past and know what we're capable of doing. This spring we just did what we could, and the chips fell where they fell. I couldn't have done anything else to put myself in a better spot, it's just where we are.''
Maddon said Niemann took it well.
"He was really good about it,'' Maddon saiid. "Highly accountable. Highly accountable. Understood the whole thought process behind it because he's pretty bright, he puts things together pretty well. Moving down the road, Jeff is a starter. How that's going to play out right now, I can't tell you specifically, but we see him as a starter -- a very good one, actually. I even reminded him, again, historically when he's right and he's well, I have as much confidence in him as any of our starters over the last several years. When he puts it together, he gets hot for a while. He gets efficient outs, he's out there and he keeps you in every game and gives you a strong chance to win.
"We believe when that velocity reoccurs, you're going to see all those qualities come back to him. It's not as good for him right now, but it's good for us now and in the long term, and I want to believe it's going to be good for him long-term also."