Tuesday, February 20, 2018
Tampa Bay Rays

Rookie pitchers to carry load for Rays

The true test of the Rays' pitching depth may come on this week's road trip, when they're likely to start a rookie pitcher in four of the seven games against the Red Sox and Yankees.

RHP Jake Odorizzi was called up from Triple-A Durham to start tonight's game in Boston, added as the 26th man for the doubleheader, with RHP Chris Archer to start the day game (as well as Sunday in New York).

RHP Alex Colome is expected to be brought up to take the spot of RHP Alex Cobb (on the seven-day concussion disabled list); he'd make just his second big-league start in Yankee Stadium on Friday.

A key, as Archer learned in last Tuesday's loss to the Red Sox, will be trying not to do too much. Archer had great stuff in that start, striking out seven, but his command was off as he walked four and fell behind too many hitters while allowing four runs and lasting just four innings.

Archer also let his emotions get the best of him, admitting his fist-pumping celebration following a strikeout of Boston's Daniel Nava might have been a little much.

"Physically, I've been there for a while," Archer said. "But mentally, I just don't need to get ahead of myself. I don't need to do too much, just work pitch to pitch. I've got to get strike one."

The Rays are hoping to see the Archer who pitched seven dominant innings against the Orioles rather than the wild rookie who lasted four innings in his other two starts.

"He's got unbelievably good stuff," manager Joe Maddon said. "It's really going to play here very consistently. But it has to be a more consistent performance on his part."

Odorizzi will be up for just a spot start tonight. He has made two starts for the Rays this season, both last month, giving up nine runs over nine combined innings. He also had a relief appearance Thursday against his former team, the Royals, allowing two runs over 3 1/3 innings before getting sent down to make room for Archer.

Colome was impressive in his major-league debut against the Marlins on May 30, charged with one unearned run in five innings.

IN THE SWING: Though Maddon said the Rays and Red Sox are "evenly matched," he admits they have to prove it on the field. The Rays have lost seven of nine matchups this season, four by one run. A big reason why is Tampa Bay's troubles with runners in scoring position, a .141 average (12-for-85) against Boston (including .092 in the losses) as opposed to a league-leading .294 overall. "We've just got to get the guys in like we've been doing," Kelly Johnson said. "But that stuff's all cyclical. Our time will come, I hope, against them. As long as we keep doing it against other teams, it'll help, obviously."

The Rays have also had trouble against RHP Alfredo Aceves, who starts today's day game. Aceves beat Tampa Bay on Wednesday, allowing one run over six innings, and has held the Rays to a .161 batting average in 20 career appearances. "We can't hit that guy," Maddon said.

MISCELLANY: Maddon said he's almost certain Evan Longoria will return to third base for at least one of today's doubleheader games. … Triple-A C Chris Gimenez returned Sunday after missing a month due to a left hand sprain, restoring some organizational depth at the position.

Joe Smith can be reached at [email protected]

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