Wednesday, December 13, 2017
Tampa Bay Rays

Rainout in Baltimore causes pitching problems for Rays

BALTIMORE — Through the morning rains and the brief afternoon snow showers and the uncomfortably cold, if not frigid, temperatures, the Rays were led to believe they were going to play baseball against the Orioles on Saturday night.

Even when the threat of additional "inclement weather" forced a half-hour delay, they were told, despite temperatures in the high 30s and a weather.com feels-like of 31, to be ready for a 7:40 first pitch. Players wearing hoods and layers of clothes got loose as best they could on the field while starter Drew Smyly went through his full warmup in the bullpen.

But minutes before they were to start, another wave of wintry mix — rain and snow and whatever else they want to call it — came through Camden Yards.

And minutes later, the Orioles made the decision they probably should have made hours earlier, that the game wouldn't be played after all. Thirty-five miles to the south, the Nationals had announced early in the afternoon that their game wouldn't be played.

"They said we were starting on time," Rays first baseman Logan Morrison said. "Then they said, 'Well, let's wait, hold on.' Then they said 7:40. And then the next update was it's over, it's done. They canceled a game 30 minutes away at 1 o'clock today, just saying. Baseball was not meant to be played in this weather, so why try it?"

No makeup date was announced, though a doubleheader during the Rays' June 24-26 visit would seem most likely.

Of more immediate concern is the shuffling it causes the Rays to do with their four-man starting pitching staff — as Smyly isn't available today — and the additional juggling with their lineup, as they were off Thursday and are again Monday.

"They wanted to play and we just kind of waited for the weather, and it just didn't work out," Rays manager Kevin Cash said. "I don't think it could have been handled differently."

The Rays will stick with their original plan of having Jake Odorizzi start today, deciding that it would be unwise to bring back Smyly — who declined to talk to the media — after a full warmup.

"That would be a little bit kind of unprecedented for him to warm up the night before and turn around and play a (1:35) ball game," Cash said.

Still, they will have to rework a rotation that was already set to be adjusted this week. Matt Moore will pitch on schedule Tuesday against Cleveland, with Smyly now slotting in on Wednesday and ace Chris Archer on Thursday.

Because the Rays play six straight games this week, they were planning to drop in a fifth starter on Wednesday, with Matt Andriese lined up to be called up from Triple-A Durham. Now they will wait until Friday or Saturday to add in the fifth, whether it be Andriese on a reconfigured schedule or prospect Blake Snell or another callup, or they might opt to have Erasmo Ramirez make the start and add an extra arm to their bullpen.

Cash actually seemed more concerned with scheduling playing time for the position players, trying to keep them all sharp.

The lineup he planned to use Saturday had Steve Pearce at first base, with Morrison at DH and Corey Dickerson in leftfield, giving Desmond Jennings the day off.

"We talked about how difficult this is with this many off-days, and now we just added another one in," he said. "Somebody's going to be sitting three days in a row, and that's not ideal this early in the season. So we're going to have to talk through that and talk with some of the guys."

The Orioles did not publicly explain their decision-making process. Cash said from the best he could tell, they didn't expect the last band of weather to come through — though it should be noted there was no additional precipitation afterward.

"I think we were all pretty convinced we were going to play," Cash said. "Ultimately, we can't predict the way the wind is going to affect everything and the wind changed a bit, and it brought that storm in at 7:40."

Speaking at his late-afternoon pre-game media session, Orioles manager Buck Showalter, who was going to have to play without two of his top players, as Adam Jones and J.J. Hardy needed one more day to deal with slight injuries, said they had given the decision to try to play a lot of thought.

"It's going to be cold, but we play games. It's what we do," he said. "We take a lot of things into consideration to make sure it's okay for the fans. You look at what the forecast is at 10-11 o'clock. You look at a lot of factors. I know I get asked about it from a competitive standpoint, and I'm sure there's some other factors involved. There are a lot of things that go into it."

Marc Topkin can be reached at [email protected]tampabay.com. Follow @ TBTimes_Rays.

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