Posted on March 7, 2018, by Bryan Zarpentine
While the Texas Rangers contemplate a 6-man starting rotation, much to the chagrin of ace Cole Hamels, the Tampa Bay Rays are moving in the other direction. Rays manager Kevin Cash has indicated the team would begin the season with a 4-man rotation. With his most recent comments, it appears the Rays could use a 4-man rotation all season.
Chris Archer, Blake Snell, Jake Faria, and Nathan Eovaldi figure to be Tampa’s four starting pitchers. If their schedule dictates the need for a fifth starter, the Rays will use several pitchers out of their bullpen to handle those nine innings. At first glance, Matt Andriese would be the favorite to start those games.
“Our plan, we’re not going to five,” explains Cash. “We’re going to try to stay at four. We’re going to have some bullpen days in there. We’re going to try and do that for a long period of time. We’re going to learn a lot in the first six weeks.”
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The idea, as Cash has stated previously, is keep their starters on regular rest. With the number of off days worked into the schedule, it increases the number of times starters have five or six full days between starts. The Rays believe that can be counterproductive for their starters.
“If we ran a five-man rotation, we’re talking an extra day and two extra days, basically almost every time through (the rotation),” Cash said back in February. “I think any starting pitcher would tell you it’s not ideal for them, and we’re just going to kind of shorten that up and insert a starter or a spot starter or a bullpen day on those days.”
A 4-man rotation will help to maximize the number of times each of Tampa’s starters take the mound, which should be a good thing. Archer is a two-time all-star and the undisputed ace of the staff. Both Snell and Faria established themselves as viable big league pitchers last season. Eovaldi also has a strong track record despite sitting out 2017 because of Tommy John surgery. Tampa’s rotation has long been a strength of the team, and that should continue as long as those four can stay healthy.
The Rays also believe they have several relievers capable of pitching multiple innings. In addition to Andriese, Austin Pruitt, Ryan Yarbrough, Yonny Chirinos, and Anthony Banda all have experience as a starter. That should make it easier for the Rays to handle a day when only relievers pitch.
“We feel like we have a lot of good pitchers,” says Cash. “We want to get them all of their reps and not limit somebody, not get use of that guy (who turns into the) odd man out by not being in the rotation.”
Obviously, there’s a fair amount of risk in using a 4-man rotation. It’s been years since a major league team even attempted a 4-man rotation for a significant length of time. It has the potential to put a great deal of stress on both starters and relieves. However, it could be a way for the Rays, a team few expect to compete for a playoff spot, to play to their strengths and surprise people. Only time will tell if it’ll pay off, but it should be something to watch closely when the 2018 season gets underway.