ST. PETERSBURG —- RHP Erasmo Ramirez was the Rays' fifth starter last season, starting 26 games and recording an 11-6 record. But when the 2016 campaign began, Ramirez was needed even more elsewhere.
With Rays closer RHP Brad Boxberger out with an abdomen injury and an abundance of off days in April, Ramirez was designated to the bullpen to start the season and the team moved along with a four-man rotation.
Tonight, Ramirez will move back to familiar territory. The team announced Friday afternoon that Ramirez will start in the second game in a weekend series against the White Sox. It will be the first time the Rays will play a fifth straight game — they had an off day after their first four games then another after their next three games.
Ramirez has made three appearances in relief this season, all two innings. Still, Ramirez said before Friday's game that he's ready to go much longer despite relatively short notice.
"I'm trying to be just myself, no matter where I am, no matter the situation it is, just go execute pitches," he said. "I know I've got a pitch limit, but I don't want to think about it. … My mind is to go deep as I can in the game."
It's possible Ramirez would be needed again on April 23, the only other instance this month where the Rays play a fifth straight game. The Rays won't need a five-man rotation again after that until May 10, during a six-game trip to Los Angeles and Seattle.
"The way Erasmo is ... he's capable of throwing five innings on 50 pitches. We've seen him do it last year. His efficiency sometimes is kind of off the charts," manager Kevin Cash said. "He's capable of getting up there in a pretty good pitch count having not done it in this early part of the season."
ODORIZZI DEALS: Though he might have been overshadowed by opposing pitcher Chris Sale's complete-game shutout performance, Rays RHP Jake Odorizzi also had a good night, giving up four hits and striking out six in seven innings.
He gave up doubles to SS Jimmy Rollins and 2B Brett Lawrie in the first and second innings, respectively, but appeared to get better from there.
"I thought my command showed up after the third inning. The first couple weren't terrible, but they weren't great," he said. "But after that, I was able to pretty much do what I wanted to. I'm really encouraged by the way I threw the ball."
Cash was, too: "He got stronger as the outing went on, that's what was pretty impressive. Really, really the positive spot of the night."
RIGHTIES GET A LOOK: Through the first nine games, the Rays only faced one left-handed pitcher, leaving right-handed batting bench players Tim Beckham, Brandon Guyer and Steve Pearce with limited at-bats. Friday, though, began a three-game span of all left-handed starters, so they were back into the lineup. Beckham and Guyer went hitless; Pearce was 1-for-3,