Wade Davis isn’t thrilled with the possibility of pitching out of the bullpen

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The Rays decided against cashing in on their starting pitching depth over the winter and will enter spring training with six realistic candidates for five spots. David Price, James Shields, Jeremy Hellickson and top prospect Matt Moore are essentially locks for the rotation at this point, which means Wade Davis will compete with Jeff Niemann for the final spot.

Davis, who posted a 4.45 ERA and 105/63 K/BB ratio over 184 innings last season, has never pitched in relief as a pro and told Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times earlier today that he has no interest in doing so.

“I’m a starter,” he said. “I don’t see any reason for me to be in the bullpen. I understand they’ve got to do certain things, but we’ll see. … I definitely want to be a starter and stay a starter forever. And that’ll be my mentality.”

Niemann, who had a 4.06 ERA and 105/37 K/BB ratio across 135 1/3 innings, at least appeared to be more open to the possibility.

“Right now, I think we’ll just deal with that when we have to,” he said. “I’m just looking forward to going out there and building up (innings) the way we normally do it and see how things play out. It’s just an unknown, a definite unknown.”

Topkin notes that Davis “wouldn’t have much leverage to force a trade,” so the reality is that he’d have no choice but to accept a bullpen role if Niemann begins the year in the starting rotation.

Davis, 26, signed a four-year, $12.6 million extension with the Rays last season which will pay him $1.5 million this season, $2.8 million in 2013, $4.8 million in 2014 and includes club options for 2015 and 2016. Niemann, who turns 28 later this month, will make $2.75 million this season and remains under team control through 2014. Depth is certainly a nice luxury to have, but it’s unlikely the Rays will keep both pitchers for the long haul.

Joe Girardi won’t use Masahiro Tanaka in Game 7

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The Yankees and Astros are set for Game 7 of the American League Championship Series on Saturday, and neither team will hold back as they seek a World Series berth. The Astros are prepared to back starter Charlie Morton with any able-bodied pitcher in their ranks — including Justin Verlander, though A.J. Hinch said it would be a “dream scenario” to get anything more from his ace — while the Yankees are prepared to utilize all but a few of their arms. One pitcher you won’t see? Right-hander Masahiro Tanaka, who last took the hill for the Yankees during their Game 5 shutout on Wednesday.

Tanaka expended 103 pitches over seven scoreless innings in his last start, fending off the Astros with three hits, a walk and eight strikeouts. He hasn’t pitched on fewer than three days of rest all year, and even with a do-or-die scenario facing the Yankees on Saturday night, manager Joe Girardi doesn’t want to compromise his starter’s ability to stay rested and ready for the World Series.

Girardi will also play it safe with fellow right-hander Sonny Gray, who dominated in a five-inning performance in Game 4. All other pitchers should be available and ready to go, though the club is hoping for a lengthy outing from veteran starter CC Sabathia. Sabathia is no stranger to the postseason: over eight separate playoff runs, he touts one championship title and a collective 4.24 ERA in 123 innings. He held the Astros scoreless in his Game 3 start, blanking them over six innings on three hits, four walks and five strikeouts for an eventual 8-1 win.

Even without Tanaka or Gray likely to take the mound for Game 7, the Yankees will enter the series finale with history on their side. Per MLB.com, they have a 4-3 road record in Game 7s and are 6-7 in all 13 Game 7 finales to date. The Astros, on the other hand, dropped their first and only Game 7 clincher back in 2004, when the Cardinals capped the NLCS with a 5-2 win in St. Louis. The teams are scheduled to face off for the first-ever Game 7 at Minute Maid Park on Saturday at 8:00 PM ET.