Saturday, April 21, 2018
Tampa Bay Rays

Tampa Bay Rays' decision to hang on to pitching depth paying off early

All the talk throughout the winter and spring about the Rays' preserving their pitching depth seemed a bit manufactured, as they didn't make an expected deal to add a bat (or a front-line catcher) in trade for Jeff Niemann and Wade Davis.

But on the first weekend of the season, it looks like a pretty smart decision.

The same with the signing of free-agent reliever Fernando Rodney, a move greeted, at best, with raised eyebrows given the arms they already had in their bullpen and his recent lack of success.

With closer-designate Kyle Farnsworth idled at least the next four-six weeks to rest his ailing elbow — and assuming it's better, he'd need more time to work back to game form — suddenly the Rays find considerable comfort in having Davis and Rodney in the bullpen.

Rodney, with the most end-game experience of the remaining relievers, seems likely to take over as the unofficial closer, and Davis will be fast-tracked to start working high-leverage innings. The role could be important enough that if the Rays needed another starter, at least on a short-term basis, you wonder if they wouldn't call up Alex Cobb and keep Davis in the pen.

Of more concern is their lack of depth of position players, with OFs Sam Fuld and B.J. Upton sidelined and INF Reid Brignac playing with a plantar fascia issue in his right foot.

"Going into spring I think the one area where we had a little bit of an uncomfortable feeling was on the position player depth side, and we're really testing it now out of the gates," executive VP Andrew Friedman said. "We feel very good about what we have (at the big-league level), it's just that we're in a very tenuous spot with the depth behind it."

With Upton heading out on a rehab assignment and targeting a return during a homestand that begins April 20, they'll potentially have another decision to make soon, whether to send down Brignac or OF/C Stephen Vogt.

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