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The Rays may do something really weird with their rotation

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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 ArcherNate 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.

Tony Clark: Universal DH ‘gaining momentum’ among players

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Major League Baseball Players Association executive director Tony Clark met the press late this morning and covered a wide array of topics.

One of them: free agency, which he referred to as being “under attack” based on the slow market for free agents last offseason.

“What the players saw last offseason was that their free-agent rights were under attack on what has been the bedrock of our system,” Clark said. He added that they “have some very difficult decisions to make.” Presumably in the form of grievances and, down the road, a negotiating strategy that seeks to claw back some of the many concessions the union has given owners in the past few Collective Bargaining Agreements. CBAs, it’s worth noting, that Clark negotiated. We’ve covered that territory in detail in the past.

Of more immediate interest was Clark’s comment that the idea of a universal designated hitter is, among players, “gaining momentum.” Clark says “players are talking about it more than they have in the past.” We’ve talked a lot about that as well.

Given that hating or loving the DH is the closest thing baseball has to a religion, no one’s mind is going to be changed by any of this, but I think, practically speaking, it’s inevitable that the National League will have the DH and I think it happens relatively soon. Perhaps in the next five years. The opposition to it at this point is solely subjective and based on tradition. People like pitchers batting and they like double switches and they like the leagues being different because they, well, like it. If the system were being set up today, however, they’d never have it this way and I think even the DH-haters know that well. That doesn’t mean that you can’t dislike a universal DH, but it does mean that you can’t expect the people who run the game to cater to that preference when it makes little sense for them to do it for their own purposes.

Anyway, enjoy convincing each other in the comments about how the side of that argument you dislike is wrong.