Wednesday, February 21, 2018
Tampa Bay Rays

Rays' Erasmo Ramirez may be pitching too well to return to rotation

ST. PETERSBURG — As the Rays plan to add a fifth starter either Monday or Tuesday in Seattle, manager Kevin Cash acknowledged what has seemed obvious — that RHP Erasmo Ramirez may have pitched so well in relief, it may not be worth giving him his job back in the rotation.

"Once we were going to go to a four-man rotation, we knew that we were going to use Erasmo in some pretty high-leverage situations," Cash said. "I don't think any of us could have said he was going to be pitching this good at this point. Not discounting him at all, he's just been unbelievable.

"So I don't know how we'll continue to factor that in."

In 10 relief appearances, Ramirez is 3-1 with a 1.65 ERA. And in one start, he threw 52/3 scoreless innings.

There are several factors in deciding between using Ramirez or calling up RHP Matt Andriese or top LHP prospect Blake Snell. One is whether to shift back to a five-man rotation or take advantage of two more upcoming off days and use four and a spot starter. Another is the looming return of RH closer Brad Boxberger, who should fortify the bullpen by late May.

FAMILIAR FACES: LHP J.P. Howell, a key piece of the Rays' 2008-09 and 2011-12 bullpens, said it was odd and exciting to return to the Trop for the first time since leaving for the Dodgers.

"It was so weird, man. It was hard not to turn left into that (Rays) clubhouse," Howell said. "It's really cool. … It's awesome seeing these guys. This is where everything started for me. … They did a lot for me. Lots of good feelings. All appreciation."

OF Carl Crawford had made a pair of 2011 visits after signing with the rival Red Sox, but said he liked it more in Dodger blue.

"I never felt comfortable with that situation anyway," he said. "I feel a lot better coming back with the Dodgers than I did with the Red Sox, even though I know they will want to beat the Dodgers, too."

Plus, Crawford, approaching 35 and having been on the DL seven times, said it was fun returning to the scene of his prime.

"I played most of my best years here, and when I left it seems like my body just broke down. I really can't explain it," he said. "So coming back here definitely reminds me a lot of the old days."

PITCHING IN: Boxberger threw about 30 pitches, mixing fastballs, changeups and sliders, in the third bullpen session of his recovery from core muscle repair surgery. He will advance to live batting practice sessions Friday and Monday in Port Charlotte. … RHP Neil Wagner, who has been rehabbing from August 2014 Tommy John surgery, made his Rays game debut Tuesday for the Stone Crabs, throwing a perfect inning and hitting 95 mph on the stadium gun.

OUCH: OF Brandon Guyer got hit by a pitch for the American League-leading seventh time this season and the 31st since the start of last season. Twenty-five of those have been by left-handers.

HEY MATE: Former Rays RH reliever Grant Balfour, who announced his retirement last week, will be honored before the May 15 game with Oakland, throwing out the first pitch.

MISCELLANY: Dodgers OF Trayce Thompson's second-inning homer struck, and got stuck, in the C-ring catwalk. … The Dodgers' first visit since 2007 drew a crowd of 14,116.

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