Monday, February 19, 2018
Tampa Bay Rays

Fourth starter debated as Rays prepare roster

BOSTON — Picking a Game 4 starter, or at least narrowing the choices, then sorting out the final bullpen and bench spots looked to be the primary topics for discussion as the Rays formulate a new 25-man Division Series roster to be submitted this morning.

With LHPs Matt Moore and David Price starting the first two games here, and RHP Alex Cobb lined up for Game 3, the Rays will choose among RHPs Chris Archer, Jeremy Hellickson and Jake Odorizzi for Game 4.

Though Archer has been the better overall pitcher, the Rays may feel Hellickson — who has had a rough year — is the better matchup vs. Boston's lineup. He is 1-0, 3.44 in three starts vs. the Sox this season, 4-2, 4.21 overall.

After carrying nine pitchers and 16 position players for Wednesday's wild-card game, the Rays are likely to revert to more traditional arrangements of either 11 pitchers (four starters) and 14 position players or 10 and 15.

Assuming the Rays add either Hellickson or Odorizzi as the potential fourth starter and keep Archer in long relief, there could be room for one more traditional reliever, such as RHP Brandon Gomes or LHP Cesar Ramos.

But to make that work, two position players would have to be dropped. Third C Chris Gimenez seems most expendable, with defensive OF/pinch-runner Kevin Kiermaier potentially next, though he provides depth given CF Desmond Jennings hamstring issues. Interestingly, Archer, who was used as a pinch-runner in 2012, was running the bases during Thursday's optional workout at the request of bench coach Dave Martinez.

"We've been playing these 'seventh games' for three games in a row, and now you're going back into a regular series of five, so the thought process is going to be a little different," manager Joe Maddon said. "I think the primary things would be fourth starter and then rest of the bullpen. And then determine how many pitchers you want, how many position players, etc."

ALL FOR ONE: After playing three straight games facing the prospect of going home if they lost, the Rays get to exhale and relax today as they open a best-of-five series with the Red Sox.

But having raved about how they handled that challenge, Maddon doesn't really want them to approach these games any differently. "This is a five-game series, but I'd love for us to play it like each is a one-game series, like we just came through," he said. "(Today) is not necessarily a must win, but I really hope our guys approach it that way."

THANKS FOR PLAYING: The Rays, who have been traveling with 38 players, reduced some of the clutter by sending home four players who weren't going to see further action: INF Tim Beckham, LHP Jeff Beliveau, RHP Josh Lueke and LHP Enny Romero.

ROAD WARRIORS: Arriving at the hotel around 4:30 a.m., the Rays made Boston their fourth city in five days, extending a seemingly never-ending road trip that began Sept. 23 in a fifth city, New York. Maddon acknowledged, "We've been playing under duress, but we're not tired." Some of the players, though, said Thursday's day off — just their third in the past 42 overall — was most welcomed. "It's been not only a long road, but it's been taxing mentally and physically," Cobb said.

MISCELLANY: Maddon didn't reveal his lineup, but OF Matt Joyce could be a possibility — his only three starts vs. lefties this season were all against Jon Lester, who pitches for Boston. … DH Delmon Young leads the majors with nine postseason home runs from 2011 on. … The Rays on Wednesday became just the sixth team in postseason history to post a shutout despite allowing nine or more hits in a nine-inning game. Last were the 2004 Twins vs. the Yankees. … The Rays also snapped a 10-game win streak for the second time this season, also doing it against Toronto on June 24.

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