NORTH PORT — The Rays set their season-opening pitching rotation Tuesday and all but finalized the makeup of their bullpen.
Lefty Josh Fleming, who had been competing for a starting job, and right-hander Jason Adam, a free agent signed last month, earned bullpen spots on the 28-man opening roster.
In optioning to Triple-A Durham lefty Colin Poche and right-hander Ryan Thompson, who are returning to action following surgery, the Rays were down to one spot in their 10-man bullpen and one candidate, Chris Mazza, who re-signed on a minor-league deal and has to be added to the 40-man roster.
But because rosters don’t have to be set until noon Thursday, there is time for the Rays to potentially bring in a candidate from another team.
As for the rotation, opening-day starter Shane McClanahan will be followed by Drew Rasmussen and Corey Kluber in the series against the Orioles that starts Friday at Tropicana Field. Luis Patino will open the ensuing four-game series against the A’s, followed by Ryan Yarbrough, then the Rays will go back to McClanahan and Rasmussen.
Manager Kevin Cash said there was no overriding strategy in setting the order. But he acknowledged that Rasmussen and Patino are likely to cover the fewest innings, so there is a benefit to bullpen usage in having them separated, and also in having McClanahan and Yarbrough back to back once the order flips because hey are built up the most, though it also puts the only two lefties together.
Fleming’s versatility makes him an appealing candidate given the uncertainty teams face over the health and readiness of pitchers because of the abbreviated spring training. The Rays plan to carry 15 pitchers — rosters are expanded from 26 to 28 through May 1 — and don’t expect any starter to get past 75-80 pitches at least the first time through the rotation. Fleming could be used to provide depth, even potentially assigned to work on the day Rasmussen or Patino pitches.
Adam, 30, missed much of last season with an ankle injury, having pitched parts of four seasons in the majors with the Cubs, Jays and Royals. Cash said he impressed with a mix of fastball and off-speed pitches. “He’s had a bright camp,” Cash said. “Very encouraged with his overall work.”
What’s the frequency?
The Rays were pleased to hear that the PitchCom electronic signaling device has been approved for regular-season use, as most of their pitchers and catchers found it helpful during spring trials. “I’m excited, because our pitchers and catchers have been excited about it,” Cash said. “I do think it’s going to speed the game up, which I agree with.”
Want more than just the box score?
Subscribe to our free Rays Report newsletter
You’re all signed up!
Want more of our free, weekly newsletters in your inbox? Let’s get started.Explore all your options
Austin Meadows did not get to say goodbye to the Rays, as he was at his Ruskin home Monday night when the trade to Detroit was finalized and he had to head to their Lakeland camp today for treatment on his sore quads. His now former Tampa Bay teammates said he definitely will be missed.
“A lot of us talked to Meadows and reached out to him and said thank you for the 3½ years or whatever it was that he was here,” centerfielder Kevin Kiermaier said. “He was great and meant a huge amount to this team. … I think we all had the pleasure of getting to know Meadows. He’s truly one of a kind. Great person and a great player.”
Said McClanahan: “It’s always tough when a guy like Austin is traded. We loved him in the clubhouse, loved him on the field, and we know he’s going to continue to do his thing over in Detroit, but (it) definitely stinks watching him leave.”
Meadows, whose younger brother, Parker, is a Tigers outfield prospect, told Detroit media he was still processing everything. “A lot of emotions running through my head right now and (Monday) night, and I’m just excited,” he said. “It’s crazy how all that happens full circle.”
The Rays (6-10-2) were held to one hit and lost 1-0 to the Braves on Tuesday. ... Kluber worked five efficient innings, throwing 70 pitches. “Good with the command, good with the stuff,” Cash said. “Breaking ball, throws it at will, the cutter and the slider. So happy where he ended.” ... The Rays play their final exhibition Wednesday, hosting the Phillies for a 12:35 p.m. start at Tropicana Field. Seating is general admission in the lower bowl (excluding home plate club seats); gates open at 11:05 a.m. ... They will have an optional workout Thursday morning at the Trop, then open the season Friday. ... The Rays’ “trade” of reliever David McKay to the Yankees, the result of an assignment clause in his contract, is officially recorded as being for $1.
• • •
Sign up for the Rays Report weekly newsletter to get fresh perspectives on the Tampa Bay Rays and the rest of the majors from sports columnist John Romano.