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Matt Silverman: Rays exploring rotation options

Starting pitcher Nathan Karns retires all 12 Orioles batters he faces in the Rays’ 3-2 victory.
Starting pitcher Nathan Karns retires all 12 Orioles batters he faces in the Rays’ 3-2 victory.
Published Mar. 15, 2015

SARASOTA — With RHP Alex Colome hospitalized due to his bout with pneumonia and LHP Drew Smyly hoping to play catch today for the first time in more than a week, baseball operations chief Matt Silverman acknowledged Saturday that the Rays are exploring options to patch potential holes in their rotation for the start of the season.

"With two starting pitchers that aren't ready at this point, there's concern," Silverman said. "We're continuing to evaluate options that we have within the organization as well as continue to monitor the other 29 teams.

"It's still early in spring, there's a lot of time between now and opening day to determine plans. But the wheels are spinning, and we're working on contingencies already."

The leading in-house option, RHP Nathan Karns, gave them some reason for optimism Saturday with a strong showing in a 3-2 win over the Orioles, throwing four perfect innings. Other candidates include RHP Matt Andriese and RHP Burch Smith, who pitches today vs. the Mets, and LHPs Enny Romero and Mike Montgomery. The team could go outside for a starter, and it has OF David DeJesus to offer in trade, or for depth to plug in at Triple A.

Colome was hospitalized Thursday night with a high fever, among other symptoms, and is being treated with antibiotics; he could be released today.

But Colome needs time, at least seven days, before he gets back on the field, making it likely he won't be ready to start the season.

"It's an illness that certainly will sap him of some strength, and we will need to be aware of that and be patient with him as he builds himself back up," Silverman said.

Smyly, who hasn't thrown since a March 6 bullpen session due to shoulder tendinitis, reported to the Port Charlotte complex "feeling great" and went through his exercises and drills (releasing a ball in a sock) Saturday. He is tentatively scheduled to play catch today, which could provide a good gauge of his status, though Silverman acknowledged "it's fair to say" his availability to start the season is also in question.

Nathan's best: Karns has taken a workmanlike approach to the spring, and it certainly showed Saturday, as he set down all 12 Orioles — including most of their heavy hitters — he faced.

"It's always going to be a challenge out there," Karns said, "but if I want that position, these are the lineups I'm going to be facing the league, so why not face them now and see what happens."

His key was command as he threw 33 of his 53 pitches for strikes, fanning two, while working with C Rene Rivera for the first time.

Manager Kevin Cash praised Karns' strike-throwing and noted his ability to get on track after falling behind a hitter 3-and-0. "A very, very strong outing," he said.

Game action: The Rays (4-6-1) got a two-run homer from Rivera and an RBI ground-rule double by CF Kevin Kiermaier. … DeJesus made a sliding catch in right and 2B Jake Elmore a slick play going to his left. … LHP C.J. Riefenhauser, facing three righties, closed the game with a 1-2-3 ninth, getting Jonathan Schoop swinging at a sharp changeup to end it. … 1B Logan Forsythe and SS Asdrubal Cabrera were removed after two at-bats as scheduled.

Miscellany: OF Brandon Guyer (oblique/lat strain) hit Saturday, will take full batting practice on the field today and, if all is well, play Tuesday in Clearwater. … RHP Grant Balfour is expected back in camp today, having left Feb. 24 to go to Australia to attend to his ailing father, who died last week. … RHP Jim Miller, signed March 5, is scheduled for his spring debut today. … Cash gave OF Desmond Jennings and 1B James Loney, who played Friday in Clearwater, permission to work out Saturday in Sarasota rather than go back to Port Charlotte.