Rays’ Matt Andriese: A starter in bullpen land

Andriese says he is ready to pitch whenever needed this season. "I'll be considered a hybrid."
Matt Andriese still considers himself a starter even though he has many roles in the bullpen.  (Monica Herndon, Times)
Matt Andriese still considers himself a starter even though he has many roles in the bullpen. (Monica Herndon, Times)
Published March 20, 2018

PORT CHARLOTTE — If Matt Andriese had a team-issued business card it would read: Multi-inning/high-leverage relief pitcher. But before handing it to you, he would take a pen and add one more role: starting pitcher.

Andriese considers himself all of those, but truth be told, he still views himself as a starter at the big-league level no matter what tag the team has applied to him.

"For now," he said, "I'll be considered a hybrid."

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And an important one to a bullpen that will be taxed this season with a built-in bullpen day when the schedule becomes crowded enough for a fifth starter, Nate Eovaldi — whose innings will be carefully monitored during his return from Tommy John surgery — and Blake Snell and Jake Faria, a pair of young pitchers who will surely encounter more growing pains.

The key to any success the Rays might have this season is for Chris Archer and the other three starters to consistently pitch deep into games to reduce the workload on the pen.

"We can't have a bullpen day and an additional bullpen day within five days," Andriese said. "That doesn't line up for success."

That is why Andriese could become the most important arm on the staff.
He could be the first one on the mound during a bullpen day. He could also be the first one out of the bullpen should a starter falter during the early innings. He could also be used in middle relief and as a part of the bridge to closer Alex Colome.

"It could be high leverage in the second inning. It could be high leverage in the eighth," Andriese said. "I have to be ready for anything."

Kind of sounds like a super utility arm on the staff.

"Like a pitching Ben Zobrist would be kind of a good comparison," Andriese said.


"I think it's kind of a new era type thing," Andriese said. "There's different guys on different teams who have that same role. We kind of morphed into that role. Hopefully in the next couple of years that role is valued higher than it has been in the past."

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Andriese was told he would be used in relief this season weeks before the team announced it was going with four starters and a bullpen day. His work in relief during his first three seasons with the Rays made him the obvious choice.

"I think he trusts his approach," Rays manager Kevin Cash. "I remember last year many times (former pitching coach Jim Hickey) talking about him as much as anybody on our staff being able to execute game plans. You give him a report on how to attack hitters, Matty does a real good job of that. I think it's easy for him to transition from the starter's role to the bullpen role, just continue to execute game plans."

Game-planning for a lineup is different when you are a starter. You pretty much know days ahead of a start who the first batter you face will be. You don't have the same head start when you come out of the pen.

"You might be coming into face J.D. Martinez or Aaron Judge with the bases loaded," Andriese said. "If you were to think about that the night before, you'd probably get a little anxious."

The trick, Andriese said of his multi-faceted role, is the ability to reach the bullpen in the first inning and stay loose as the game wears on so he can be ready whenever needed.

That's the life of the multi-inning/high-leverage relief/starting pitcher.

"I'll never give up that starting pitcher label because I know I'm more than capable of starting at any time. If they tell me tomorrow we're putting you back in the rotation it won't take me long to get stretched out."

Contact Roger Mooney at Follow @rogermooney50.