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.

Colin Poche, Rays go to arbitration just $125,000 apart

Colin Poche torn UCL
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ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. – Reliever Colin Poche went to salary arbitration with the Tampa Bay Rays on Tuesday with the sides just $125,000 apart.

The gap between the $1.3 million the pitcher asked for and the $1,175,000 the team offered was the smallest among the 33 players who exchanged proposed arbitration figures last month. The case was heard by John Woods, Jeanne Vonhof and Walt De Treux, who will hold their decision until later this month.

A 29-year-old left-hander, Poche had Tommy John surgery on July 29, 2020, and returned to the major leagues last April 22 after six appearances at Triple-A Durham. Poche was 4-2 with a 3.99 ERA and seven saves in 65 relief appearances for the Rays. He struck out 64 and walked 22 in 58 2/3 innings.

Poche had a $707,800 salary last year.

Tampa Bay went to arbitration on Monday with reliever Ryan Thompson, whose decision also is being held until later this month. He asked for $1.2 million and the Rays argued for $1 million.

Rays right-hander Jason Adam and outfielder Harold Ramirez remain scheduled for hearings.

Players and teams have split four decisions thus far. All-Star pitcher Max Fried ($13.5 million) lost to Atlanta and reliever Diego Castillo ($2.95 million) was defeated by Seattle, while pitcher Jesus Luzardo ($2.45 million) and AL batting champion Luis Arraez ($6.1 million) both beat the Marlins.

A decision also is pending for Los Angeles Angels outfielder Hunter Renfroe.

Eighteen additional players are eligible for arbitration and hearings are scheduled through Feb. 17. Among the eligible players is Seattle utilityman Dylan Moore, who has a pending three-year contract worth $8,875,000.