Sunday, January 21, 2018
Tampa Bay Rays

Jake Faria's performance solving one of Rays' roster dilemmas

DETROIT

Jake Faria has been much more of an answer for the Rays than a question.

The rookie right-hander rolled Sunday to his third straight win in as many tries, striking out nine while working seven strong innings in the 9-1 victory that gave the Rays (37-35) a split of the four-game series with the Tigers and a 3-3 road trip.

The Rays weren't sure what they were getting when they summoned Faria for what was supposed to be a one-start June 7 cameo until Matt Andriese's injury turned out to be more serious.

But Faria has shown that with his combination of elevated fastball, biting changeup and slider with more vertical than sweeping break, plus poise beyond his 23 years, he can play well in the big leagues.

"He does belong," manager Kevin Cash said. "We're fortunate he's been able to fill Matt Andriese's role, and it seem like he's kind of fit right in line with the way our starting pitching has performed. … He quieted a very potent lineup down."

Heading into a week in which the Rays face numerous roster decisions, Faria has shown enough that he shouldn't be part of the conversation. About the only reason they could have for not keeping him around is opting to go with four starters and an extra reliever or position player through a stretch of three days off in 12 and two NL-rules series.

Here's what else they will be talking about:

Catcher

With Wilson Ramos (knee) on a path to complete his ahead-of-schedule rehab and be activated from the disabled list on Sunday, the Rays have to decide whether to keep Derek Norris or Jesus Sucre as the backup. Another option would be to keep both, at least until Ramos is ready for everyday duty.

OUR TAKE: Unless the Rays get stubborn on getting something for the $1.6 million ($1.2 million salary, $400,000 in roster bonuses) they've invested in Norris, this should be an easy call in keeping Sucre.

Norris is hitting .191 (though with eight homers) and in a 7-for-59 skid while having a league-most six errors and six passed balls and being responsible for some of the team's 32 wild pitches. Plus, there is the possibility he will be suspended by MLB as it continues to investigate allegations by his former fiancee of physical and emotional abuse.

Sucre doesn't have the power but hits well with runners in scoring position, has the arm to be aggressive in shutting down a running game, and works well with the pitchers. Being out of options, he can't be sent to the minors without going through waivers and would likely to be claimed.

Assuming Ramos, an All-Star and Silver Slugger last year with Washington, can catch on back-to-back days, as he did this weekend and will do again, that should eliminate any need to carry a third catcher.

Infield

Trevor Plouffe, acquired Saturday from Oakland, is set to be activated today, providing depth at first and third base. To make room, either Taylor Featherston or Michael Martinez has to go.

OUR TAKE: Featherston has an option, so he could be sent to the minors, but he has pop and the Rays seem comfortable with his middle infield defense. Martinez, who rarely plays, was already set to be designated for assignment once, until Brad Miller went back on the DL, and should be packing up today. Plus, the Rays will need his 40-man roster spot.

Bullpen

Right-hander Brad Boxberger is — finally — in sight, set to complete his flexor injury rehab and be activated as soon as Friday, so they have to make room in the bullpen.

OUR TAKE: The Rays plan to ease Boxberger back into high-leverage duty, hoping he eventually takes over as the primary eighth-inning setup man for closer Alex Colome. But don't look for them to displace any of their veterans yet, more likely to make room from the bottom of the pen, such as sending down rookie Austin Pruitt and sliding Chase Whitley into the long-man role.

Rotation

Erasmo Ramirez hasn't pitched well since the close-one-game, start-the-next experiment, 0-2 with a 9.20 ERA in three games while allowing 26 hits in 142/3. And Blake Snell has done okay (4-0, 2.84) in six starts since sent down to Durham, throwing eight innings on 100 pitches June 5 but only 52/3 on 102 and six on 108 his past two.

OUR TAKE: Ramirez is slated to start Wednesday, and it could be his last chance. Replacing him with Snell is an option, and so is going primarily with four starters for a while as they have two days off in five, and three in 12, coming up.

40-man roster

In reinstating Boxberger and Ramos from the 60-day DL, the Rays will need two spots on the 40-man roster.

OUR TAKE: Dumping Martinez and Norris will get that done.

     
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