ST. PETERSBURG — Sunday wasn't the best start of the season for Matt Andriese. It's hard to top his complete-game shutout against the A's in May.
But it certainly wasn't the worst start this year by a Rays pitcher.
Andriese, still limited by a pitch count as he makes the transition back to the rotation, threw one bad pitch Sunday, and Miguel Sano lined it into the left-centerfield seats in the third inning for the three-run homer that proved to be the turning point in the Rays' 6-3 loss to the Twins.
"Not as crisp of an outing as he had against Kansas City," manager Kevin Cash said, "but I still thought he threw the ball well."
Andriese allowed six hits and three runs in 42/3 innings for the Rays (45-65). He left after throwing 76 pitches.
Given the way he has pitched this season and the way he keeps getting bounced from the rotation to the bullpen and back, you wonder: Where does Andriese fit into the Rays' plans?
He's kind of there, the pitcher the Rays call up when they need a fifth starter and send to the bullpen when they need to make room for Blake Snell. And yet, he's 6-3 with a 2.90 ERA after Sunday's loss and owns the only complete-game shutout on the team.
From the outside, he seems to fall between the established arms of Chris Archer, Alex Cobb, Jake Odorizzi and Drew Smyly and the next wave of arms, led by Snell.
"He might not be part of that conversation to the general public, but he is to me," pitching coach Jim Hickey said. "I think he's going to be just as productive of any of those guys. Maybe not as flashy or as high-end, high-octane. He's probably not going to lead the league in strikeouts, but he can damn sure lead the league in wins. He's a good pitcher."
Andriese was 5-0 with a 2.82 ERA in seven starts when he was moved to the bullpen to make room for Snell.
"Had we not removed him from the starting rotation, who knows where he'd be now? He might be sitting on 10 wins and leading our staff in wins now," Hickey said. "He was arguably our best pitcher when we removed him from the rotation. It was a tough decision to make, but nothing that he does surprises me."
Andriese said he has always been an under-the-radar pitcher. His style doesn't draw attention. That's fine with him.
"I put myself up there along with everybody else," he said. "I have confidence in myself. I'm not a guy who needs all the hype to get me going. I believe in myself. I know I belong here."
He hopes he gets enough opportunities to build his arm strength to where he can pitch into the later innings. Then he hopes he receives the opportunity to show what he can do every fifth day.
"I'm hoping to finish this year out in the rotation, build on for next year," Andriese said, "and hopefully next year they just let me pitch."