Monday, December 11, 2017
Tampa Bay Rays

Rays weigh pitching options again

ANAHEIM, Calif. — The Rays are putting deep thought into their rotation plans again.

With Monday the last offday before a 20-day march to the season's end and a key series with the American League East-leading Red Sox starting Tuesday at Tropicana Field, the Rays are again mulling ways to create what they believe are the best pitching matchups.

What seems clear at this point is that LHP David Price and RHP Alex Cobb will pitch two of the games against Boston and RHP Chris Archer won't pitch at all. The Rays are plotting to push Archer back to give him rest and limit his innings as he pitches deep into September for the first time.

What was unclear Thursday was who would be the third starter for the series, with LHP Matt Moore, starting Sunday in Seattle, not a possibility. That left RHP Jeremy Hellickson, who made a solid return to the rotation Tuesday against the Angels; RHP Roberto Hernandez, whom the Rays seem to want to avoid starting; and possibly RHP Jake Odorizzi, who pitched well in Boston on June 18 and could be called back up.

Manager Joe Maddon acknowledged "it is appealing" to have their ace, Price, pitch the first game of the series, but the Rays are also looking at a scenario in which the "third" starter pitches the opener and they come back with Price and Cobb.

Archer, 24, starts Saturday in Seattle having already thrown 156 innings between the Rays (106) and Triple-A Durham (50). His career high is 157 1/3 last year, with 29 1/3 in the majors.

NOT-SO-MINOR MATTERS: Durham scored five runs in the first inning and got a strong start from RHP J.D. Martin to beat Indianapolis 6-5 and take a 2-0 lead in their best-of-five International League playoff series.

Advanced Class A Charlotte dropped the opener of the best-of-five Florida State League championship series 5-0 at Daytona (Cubs) as RHP Jesse Hahn got knocked out in the second inning.

Class A Bowling Green was eliminated by Fort Wayne (Padres) 9-5 in a sweep of their best-of-three Midwest League playoff series.

MISSING YOU: The Rays caught a break when the Mariners decided to push ace RHP Felix Hernandez back from Sunday's start to midweek as a precaution because of back stiffness. Though Maddon's standard line is he prefers opponents be at full strength, he said he didn't feel bad at all to not face Hernandez, who threw a perfect game against them last year: "No. … No. … And let me say it one more time, no."

REHAB REPORT: Saturday looks to be a key day in determining whether RHP Jesse Crain (shoulder strain) will be available to pitch for the Rays this season. He is tentatively scheduled to throw off the mound for the first time that day. He has been playing catch at increasing distances, with encouraging results. The Rays acquired him from the White Sox on July 29, expecting him to pitch in September.

WORTHY HONOR: Maddon was pleased to be on hand for Thursday's pregame induction of former Angels All-Star infielder and longtime coach Bobby Knoop (kuh-NOPP) into the team Hall of Fame. Maddon was a minor-league coach when he met Knoop, and they became close when Maddon joined the Angels' big-league staff. "He was so good to me when I was here," Maddon said. "He's the guy that really broadened my defensive horizons. Bobby was the guy that taught me what positioning was all about and what to look for."

MISCELLANY: CF Desmond Jennings was not in the lineup against the Angels on Thursday. Maddon wanted to include Kelly Johnson, who entered 8-for-19 against starter Jerome Williams, and he didn't want to sit rookie OF Wil Myers, who had two homers Wednesday. … Cobb said he starts tonight believing he has his full repertoire back for the first time since coming off the DL; he flew to Seattle ahead of the team.

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