Last year the Rays had a lot of success shifting Wade Davis from the rotation to the bullpen, as he went from a mediocre starter to a very good reliever (and then they traded him to the Royals).
This year they’re making the same shift with Jeff Niemann, moving him to the bullpen in an effort to ease his comeback from an injury wrecked 2012 that has left his spring velocity lacking. In his place the Rays have chosen Roberto Hernandez (formerly known as Fausto Carmona) for the final spot in the rotation.
Tampa Bay also has some good young starting pitching waiting in the wings, led by Chris Archer, so Hernandez’s tryout may not be particularly long if he struggles right away. Niemann re-entering the rotation is also a possibility, although with a 4.06 ERA and just 6.7 strikeouts per nine innings in 92 career starts through at age 30 he’s similar to Davis in that his value as a starter hasn’t been huge.
Hernandez missed nearly all of last season after being popped in the Dominican Republic for falsifying his identity and then injured his ankle once he rejoined the Indians, and he’s posted an ERA under 5.00 just once since 2008. Tampa Bay has worked miracles on seemingly washed up pitchers before, though, and if nothing else Hernandez is a ground-ball machine.