Wednesday, June 20, 2018
Tampa Bay Rays

Rays will ask starters to go deeper into games

BRADENTON — Whenever the Rays get around to announcing their opening week rotation, there won't be any surprises.

The order of the starters has been set since the opening of the spring, with Chris Archer first and Erasmo Ramirez fifth and the most interesting decision being to split lefties Drew Smyly and Matt Moore, with Jake Odorizzi between them. The only question is whether they take advantage of abundant April off days and use the front four with Ramirez sliding to the pen.

But what is newsworthy is a plan to have the starters pitch deeper into games.

Last year, as you may have heard, the Rays got creative and somewhat controversial in the handling of their starters. With injuries forcing them to start several less experienced pitchers, such as Nathan Karns and Matt Andriese, they were quick with the hook, often pulling them after two trips through the batting order, usually in the five- or six-inning range.

But with an already less-experienced bullpen now missing closer Brad Boxberger at least into May, and the frontline starters (except for Alex Cobb) healthy, the pendulum will shift the other way.

Now the Rays will seek more out of their starters.

"That's kind of the thought," manager Kevin Cash said. "We know we're going to have to have some guys step up in the pen. It's a little bit of a reversal from last year. We were asking the pen to step up for some young starting pitchers. This year we're more mature in the rotation and maybe a little bit more unknown — but we like the guys — in the pen. Especially the way it's kind of shaking out right now."

The starters, obviously, like that plan. "It'd be great to go seven," Odorizzi said. "Everyone puts more emphasis on six innings nowadays. But six innings leaves you a lot of room in the back end of the bullpen for — I think we saw how it played out last year, only going five and six. Six sounds good, but you really need seven."

VIVA CUBA: Even in Havana, principal owner Stuart Sternberg found a way to poke the rival Red Sox. "I've been told it's a third-world country here, and the stadium, they've done the best with it, but the clubhouse is still in better shape than the visitors' clubhouse at Fenway." … Even with the epic delay on the way home, 3B Evan Longoria said the Cuba trip was a good one for several reasons, specifically team bonding. "We were talking about it, maybe we should do this every year, go somewhere where you can't use your cellphone and you're with the team pretty much 100 percent of the day just getting to bond," he said. "So in that respect I think it was very beneficial for us." (Some would say that applies to Port Charlotte, at least the cellphone part.) … Commissioner Rob Manfred raved about the Rays and the experience but told radio host Dan Patrick "a lot has to happen," in terms of the economy and infrastructure, before Cuba could be considered for its own team.

RAYS RUMBLINGS: The Rays were last among the 30 MLB teams in Forbes' annual franchise value rankings at $650 million, but up $25 million from the year before. … Nothing has been announced, but three postgame concerts are planned. Does the smaller number mean bigger names? … More than 100,000 tickets have been sold for the Friday-Saturday Jays-Red Sox exhibitions in Montreal, which likely will spark more Rays relocation chatter. Plus, Manfred was quoted in the Le Journal de Montreal as saying, "Another team in Canada might be beautiful." … The Rays, per Baseball America, signed 43 international prospects in 2015, fifth most in the majors. … Clubhouse/equipment manager Jose Fernandez got a warm greeting from the players in the clubhouse Thursday after having to stay over an extra day in Cuba. … Congrats to ex-Rays RHP Jeremy Hellickson for earning the Phillies' opening day start, but it will be interesting to see how his fly ball stuff plays in cozy Citizens Bank Park.

Comments
Raysí Kevin Kiermaier returns, with energy to spare

Raysí Kevin Kiermaier returns, with energy to spare

HOUSTON — Energy.That's what Kevin Kiermaier said he felt he'd provide most in rejoining the Rays Tuesday against the Astros after missing two-plus months recovering from thumb surgery."I like to think I bring energy on both sides of the ball, ...
Updated: 28 minutes ago
Rays journal: Blake Snell outlasts Justin Verlander in 2-1 win

Rays journal: Blake Snell outlasts Justin Verlander in 2-1 win

HOUSTON — The starting pitcher walked seven over seven otherwise solid innings Tuesday. That seemed weird enough for the Rays. Then the next pitcher they brought in was the one who started Monday's game. Even more bizarre.And then there was thi...
Updated: 29 minutes ago
Marc Topkinís takeaways from Rays-Astros

Marc Topkinís takeaways from Rays-Astros

This is how odd LHP Blake Snell's night was — he became the first pitcher to work seven or more innings and walk at least seven since Edwin Jackson threw his 149-pitch, eight-walk no-hitter at the Rays on June 25, 2010.If you weren't aware of t...
Updated: 7 hours ago
For starters: Rays at Astros, with Kiermaier back and an ace-high matchup

For starters: Rays at Astros, with Kiermaier back and an ace-high matchup

UPDATE, 6:45: Cash said Smith will continue to play a lot, getting time in LF and RF, meaning something of a rotation system for rookie Johnny Field and veteran Carlos Gomez.UPDATE, 4:49: Kiermaier is batting leadoff and playing center as expected, w...
Updated: 12 hours ago
So, how exactly did the Rays end up losing Monday?

So, how exactly did the Rays end up losing Monday?

The Rays lost Monday's game when Sergio Romo failed them in the ninth inning.Called on to protect what was whittled to a one-run lead from 4-0, Romo got off to a bad start, walking the first batter on four pitches and then allowing a single to the se...
Published: 06/19/18
Sports Day Tampa Bay podcast: Rays continue to struggle in close games

Sports Day Tampa Bay podcast: Rays continue to struggle in close games

The Rays blow a four-run lead in Houston and lose on a walkoff hit to the Astros in the opener of their three-game series. It's the 19th one-run loss for the Rays this season as they continue to struggle in close games. Fortunately, reinforcements ar...
Published: 06/19/18
Rays DFA Rob Refsnyder to make room for Kevin Kiermaier

Rays DFA Rob Refsnyder to make room for Kevin Kiermaier

The Rays made official after Monday's game that CF Kevin Kiermaier would be activated on Tuesday.And to make room on the 40- and 25 man rosters, they designated for assignment OF Rob Refsnyder.Acquired from the Indians for cash considerations just be...
Published: 06/19/18
Rays journal: A 4-0 lead disappears in loss at Houston

Rays journal: A 4-0 lead disappears in loss at Houston

HOUSTON — The Rays brought up several of their top prospects so they can get as much experience as possible.And Monday that included seeing how the relentless defending champion Astros worked their way back from an early four-run deficit to sco...
Published: 06/18/18
Updated: 06/19/18
Devil Rays manager Lou Piniella pondered upside-down pitching in 2005

Devil Rays manager Lou Piniella pondered upside-down pitching in 2005

HOUSTON — Well before the idea of using a reliever to open games, as the Rays did against the Astros Monday for the 12th time, and then bringing in a starter was even a gleam in the eyes of the current Rays staff, former manager Lou Piniella wa...
Published: 06/18/18
Updated: 06/19/18
Marc Topkinís takeaways from Rays-Astros

Marc Topkinís takeaways from Rays-Astros

RHP Ryne Stanek continues to look comfortable and confident as the game opener, retiring all five batters he faced. His six starts now cover a complete game, and he has allowed only two runs in the nine innings.OF Carlos Gomez's feelings about not li...
Published: 06/18/18