Rays narrowing in on fifth starter decision
Rays manager Joe Maddon said that they'll make a decision on the final rotation spot - between RHP Jeff Niemann and Roberto Hernandez - by the middle of next week.
With Hernandez scheduled to pitch Tuesday, and Niemann Wednesday, Maddon said it'd "more than likely" come after both have thrown. At that point, Maddon said they'll announce the order of the rotation, with the Niemann/Hernandez winner not necessarily No. 5.
The other will go to the bullpen and be a long reliever, but Maddon said the decision will be based on who is best to start right now, as opposed to who is more suited as a reliever.
"Part of it would be feel," Maddon said. "Part of it sometimes, you have to make your best guess, too, based on the fact that you're getting limited chances to see each guy. Both people have been successful in the past at the major league level, both are still capable of performing at a high level in the major leagues as a starting pitcher.
"You don't chose a starter by saying the other guy is more able to be reliever. That's kind of backwards. You chose it by, right now, who do you think you'd want to start right now and then applying the other guy to the bullpen."
Hernandez has had a better spring, a 3.00 in six apperances, with Maddon saying he's gotten better as the camp has wore on. Niemann had allowed one run or less in his ifrst five outings, but gave up five runs and 10 hits Thursday in a six inning stint, though saying he felt as best as he has all spring.
Maddon pointed to how much success RHP Wade Davis had as a reliever last year after losing out on the No. 5 rotation spot, with a big part of that how well he "accepted" the situation. Maddon said the loser of the current battle will likely fill a familiar longer role to start, then, as he got used to it, work him into a shorter role, if he's doing well.