Rays manager Kevin Cash told the Tampa Bay Times this morning that the team may do something unconventional with its rotation. Specifically:
This is . . . weird.
The Rays have a lot of days off early in the season such that starting things off with a four-man rotation makes sense. Indeed, Kevin Cash said, in fact, that they would do that, pushing Matt Andriese, who started 17 games last year, into long relief for the first six weeks or so of the season.
Going with a four-man all year seems weird, though. After all, even with the trade of Jake Odorizzi and the injury to prospect Brent Honeywell, the Rays still have five good starters in Chris Archer, Nate Eovaldi, Blake Snell, Jake Faria and Andriese. Sure, maybe Eovaldi, coming back from Tommy John surgery — his second TJ surgery, by the way — is a question mark, but he was sharp in his first two spring training outings and says he feels strong.
The larger question is what happens on Day 5 from May-forward and what happens to the bullpen on Days 1 through 4 as a result.
“Bullpenning” got a lot of press in the postseason, but the idea that a bullpen can stay fresh with such a high-level of use for 5-6 months with few days off is a questionable one. That’s especially the case when three of the Rays’ projected starters — Eovaldi, Faria and Snell — pitched limited innings last year and can’t be expected to go six or seven innings per start in 2018 (who can anymore?). Maybe Archer is a horse, but the rest of your games you’re going to need three relievers to finish things up based on how life works these days. Maybe more. In light of that, is the bullpen going to be able to handle nine innings once every five days? Color me dubious. I think they’ll be fried by July.
In other news, Andriese will be eligible for arbitration for the first time next offseason and will come much cheaper for the Rays if his platform year is spent in long relief than as a starter, but I suppose that’s just a coincidence.