Rays Journal: Early off-days lead to four-man rotation, Andriese in bullpen

With a bunch of early season off-days, Rays will spread work among 4
The Rays see Matt Andriese as a valuable multi-inning weapon coming out of the bullpen. [Times files 2017}
The Rays see Matt Andriese as a valuable multi-inning weapon coming out of the bullpen. [Times files 2017}
Published Feb. 18, 2018|Updated Feb. 18, 2018

PORT CHARLOTTE – Among many reasons the Rays decided to trade RHP Jake Odorizzi was that they didn't really need him. Or at least didn't need five experienced starters.

Manager Kevin Cash confirmed Sunday a plan to use only a four-man rotation for the first six-plus weeks of the season.

Because of an abundance of early off-days – eight in a 38-day window – they are planning to use Chris Archer, Blake Snell, Nathan Eovaldi and Jake Faria as starters, preferring to keep them pitching on close to a regular schedule.

As it is, they will shift another experienced option, Matt Andriese, to work as a multi-innings reliever, and likely keep all of their prospects – yes, including Brent Honeywell – in the minors to start the season.

RELATED: Rays ditch Odorizzi and Dickerson, add Cron on busy Satuday

There will be exceptions, as there are four stretches in that span when they play five or more straight games, so they will either summon a spot starter or  make it a bullpen day from their eight man relief staff. And by the time they need a fulltime fifth in mid-May, they may deem one of the young arms ready.

Already planning to be more aggressive in pulling starters early, some after two times through the order, they see Andriese as a potential key weapon as a "very heavily used multi-inning" reliever and want him to have time to get adjusted to the role after wanting to be a starter and to get comfortable with the demands.

"Matt's been there and done it," Cash said. "We're trying to set him for six weeks of building something that we know we're going to lean on him for. … Let him get prepared, see how his arm responds to shorter workloads, see how his arm bounces back."

Counting on Cron

Rays officials felt they saw enough promise from new 1B/DH C.J. Cron – who hit .262 with 59 homers and a .756 OPS in part of four seasons with the Angels, despite his playing time limited by that Albert Pujols guy – to expect him to do well in their lineup.

The Rays feel the opportunity to play regularly against all lefties and some righties – similar to the 2016 Steve Pearce role – will allow Cron to do even better while providing some needed right-handed power.

"This guy is strong, has a really good feel for it, his hands work, he can do  a lot of different things in terms of pitches he can stay on and where he can drive the baseball," GM Erik Neander said.

"Some of his life experiences, some of the adversity he's had to deal with in his career to this point, can put him in position where coming to a new environment, a fresh start can really help those guys, energize them, put them in a position to hit a higher gear."

Quote of the day

"Don't beat the Rays twice in consecutive years in arbitration."
– manager Kevin Cash, joking on what led to RHP Jake Odorizzi being traded.

Number of the day


Players dropped from the 40-man roster since the end of last season.


* SS Adeiny Hechavarria reported Sunday, meaning all players checked in before Monday's first full-squad workout except newcomer C.J. Cron, who is expected Tuesday. Cron will wear No. 44 as pitching coach Kyle Snyder switches to Jake Odorizzi's 23.

* Early reporter OF Steven Souza Jr. left camp for what the team called "a family matter" and is due back Tuesday.

* Manager Kevin Cash will address the full team assembled for his fourth season, declining to share details in advance except that "it will be brief, very brief."

* There will be free games and activities from 10-12:30 at the Charlotte Sports Park, and a select-a-seat even for spring season tickets.