Make us your home page
Instagram

Get the quickest, smartest news, analysis and photos from the Bucs game emailed to you shortly after the final whistle.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Either Wade Davis or Jeff Niemann appears likely to wind up in bullpen thanks to Tampa Bay Rays' pitching surplus

PORT CHARLOTTE — Rays executive vice president Andrew Friedman and manager Joe Maddon will have most of the answers this afternoon when they hold their annual spring-training-opening media conference.

The key to the shortstop competition between Reid Brignac and Sean Rodriguez will be their hitting. … The batting order will be sorted out over the course of the spring, with the No. 2 spot one of the biggest unknowns. … Jose Lobaton, by being out of options, might have a slight edge over Robinson Chirinos in the battle to share time behind the plate with Jose Molina.

But the one question neither they nor anyone else can answer yet is what the Rays will do with their surplus of starting pitchers.

If all are healthy and there (still) isn't a trade by opening day, they'll have eight legitimate candidates for the five-man rotation.

Three of the spots are claimed by James Shields, David Price and Jeremy Hellickson, and a fourth was cleared for rookie phenom Matt Moore, whose new contract eliminated any financial incentive to keep him in the minors. Two others, Alex Cobb and Alex Torres, are likely headed back to Triple A. And though the Rays used a six-man rotation in mid-season last year, there are no plans to do so from the start or for an extended period.

All of which leaves Wade Davis and Jeff Niemann battling for one spot.

And the other apparently headed to the bullpen.

Davis, 26, is adamant that he doesn't want to go.

"I'm a starter," he said. "I don't see any reason for me to be in the bullpen. I understand they've got to do certain things, but we'll see. … I definitely want to be a starter and stay a starter forever. And that'll be my mentality."

Davis said there haven't been any conversations — yet, anyway — with anyone from the Rays about possibly ending up in the bullpen. And if he is sent that way, he might end up approaching them, though he wouldn't have much leverage to force a trade.

"If it ever did come to that, it's something we'd talk about then," he said.

Niemann, 28, takes a more open stance.

"Right now, I think we'll just deal with that when we have to," he said. "I'm just looking forward to going out there and building up (innings) the way we normally do it and see how things play out. It's just an unknown, a definite unknown."

Management's theory is that unless there's a reason not to, it's better off having as much starting depth, and quality depth, as it can. In each of their four winning seasons, the Rays have used at least seven starters, and that has been with relatively good, even great, health. So it's quite likely over the six-month season that both Davis and Niemann — plus Cobb and even Torres — will start meaningful games.

But, initially, one may be relegated to the bullpen, and given the depth the Rays have there with Kyle Farnsworth, Joel Peralta and free agent addition Fernando Rodney, potentially limited to middle or long relief.

Neither has spent much time in the pen.

Niemann, since joining the rotation in 2009, has made two regular-season appearances and one in the 2010 playoffs. Davis has started all of his 202 regular-season games as a professional, though he worked twice from the bullpen — and looked good doing so — in last year's playoffs when Farnsworth was hurt.

Niemann (11-7, 4.06 last season) said it would take some adjustments, but he doesn't think his warmup routine would be a hindrance. "It would be different, but I think at the same time I could do it," he said.

Davis doesn't even want to think about. He said he worked out harder and more often this winter, his arm strength is up considerably from last year (when he was 11-10, 4.45), and he is determined to have a solid season — in the rotation.

"Right now everything I'm doing is to get ready to throw all year long and into the postseason — I want to throw 230 innings," he said. "I'm going to go out this spring and have a great spring. I have a whole different mentality and I'm physically better and stronger."

Marc Topkin can be reached at [email protected]

Either Wade Davis or Jeff Niemann appears likely to wind up in bullpen thanks to Tampa Bay Rays' pitching surplus 02/19/12 [Last modified: Sunday, February 19, 2012 10:43pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Buccaneers WR Mike Evans previews 2017-18 NBA season, predicts Warriors will be dethroned

    Bucs

    Tampa isn't the greatest basketball market. In fact, it's just about the worst.

    Mike Evans and Jameis Winston celebrate after connecting for a touchdown against the Bears in September. [LOREN ELLIOTT | Times]
  2. Peter Budaj, Lightning lose to Devils in shootout; Nikita Kucherov scores

    Lightning Strikes

    NEWARK, N.J. — For Peter Budaj, Tuesday's season debut had a shaky start.

    The Lightning’s Vladislav Namestnikov, right, battles Damon Severson for the puck.
  3. Lightning's Steve Yzerman enjoying Nikita Kucherov's scoring run

    Lightning Strikes

    NEWARK, N.J. — If anyone knows what it is like to be as hot as Nikita Kucherov is right now, it's Lightning general manager Steve Yzerman.

    Tampa Bay Lightning right wing Nikita Kucherov, of Russia, celebrates after scoring a goal on the New Jersey Devils during the second period of an NHL hockey game, Tuesday, Oct. 17, 2017, in Newark, N.J. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)
  4. Bucs journal: Offense needs to get off to a faster start

    Bucs

    TAMPA — The past two games have seen the Bucs offense muster furious rallies in the fourth quarter of losses, with 229 yards against the Patriots and a franchise-record 27 points against the Cardinals.

    Tampa Bay Buccaneers head coach Dirk Koetter walks the field before an NFL game between the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Arizona Cardinals at University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, Ariz., on Sunday, Oct. 15, 2017.
  5. NFL players, owners hold 'constructive' talks on issues

    Bucs

    NEW YORK — NFL players and owners met Tuesday to discuss social issues, a session Miami Dolphins owner Stephen Ross called "constructive" and Colts defensive back Darius Butler termed "positive."

    A coalition of advocacy groups 'take a knee' outside of a hotel where members the quarterly NFL league meetings are being held on Tuesday in New York City.  Owners, players and commissioner Roger Goodell are all expected to attend. The activists spoke of having solidarity with athletes and coaches around the country who have also kneeled in protest of racial injustice, especially in policing.
 [Getty Images]