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Rays' latest challenge: too many starting pitchers

The Rays face a decision at the end of this week that might be unprecedented in their 11-year franchise history: what to do with too many quality starting pitchers.

With Scott Kazmir projected to come off the disabled list and start Saturday or May 4, the Rays have to make room in a rotation that seems relatively well-stocked with James Shields, Matt Garza, Andy Sonnanstine, Edwin Jackson and Jason Hammel.

"We've been working hard for the last couple years to be in this position, where we have starting pitching depth," said executive VP Andrew Friedman, adding that a team usually needs eight starters to get through a season.

"So it's going to be a different challenge for us to have this much pitching depth and be in a position to, in our opinion, take a major-league starting pitcher out of the rotation."

Since going with six starters isn't an option under consideration, that means someone has to go.

But who? And how?

Start with the premise that the Rays plan to keep them all, especially since Garza and Kazmir have already had injury issues, and they know how quickly perceived depth can disappear.

Barring an overly tempting trade offer, that means sending one — and obviously it won't be Shields or Kazmir — to the minors or the bullpen (which has done pretty well as it is).

Jackson and Hammel likely aren't going anywhere, since both are out of options, which means they can't be sent down without being put on waivers (and surely claimed), and neither would be particularly effective in the bullpen.

That leaves Sonnanstine and Garza. Either could be sent down, though it would be a bold move to demote Garza, the centerpiece of the Delmon Young deal with Minnesota.

Which makes Sonnanstine — who has shown flashes of greatness — the most likely to leave the rotation, either sent down to Triple A or shifted to the bullpen. His versatility makes him the best reliever of the bunch, though moving him to the pen could come at the expense of reliever Scott Dohmann, who is out of options.

It is, as the Rays say, a good problem. But a tough one, too.

Rays' latest challenge: too many starting pitchers 04/26/08 [Last modified: Sunday, April 27, 2008 6:17pm]
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