The day has finally come where the decision on who will be the Rays’ fifth starter will be made. Jake Odorizzi, Erik Bedard, and Cesar Ramos have had plenty of opportunities this spring to impress and seize the job. After watching all of them pitch this spring, here are my observations and ultimately whom I believe will be the Rays’ fifth starter come opening day.
Odorizzi came into spring needing to work on his changeup to add a legitimate third pitch to his repertoire to be able to stay in the majors and have success. He featured a nice split-changeup in all of his outings this spring and the results were very good. It looked like fastball out of his hand and featuring great tailing movement on it, similar to the pitcher he learned it from, Alex Cobb. Odorizzi was able to generate a bunch of ugly swings on it and looks to have three solid pitches now. His fastball velocity was mostly hovering around 90-91 MPH this spring and he had pretty command of it for the most part. Although he didn’t use his loopy curveball that much this spring, we all know that it was his number two pitch last year will feature it in the regular season. His spring stats include a 3.75 ERA in 12 innings pitched and allowing 13 hits while striking out 8. Finding success on his new split changeup should go a long way for Odorizzi in terms of his standing for winning the job.
Bedard struggled this spring and didn’t do a whole lot to impress this spring. His fastball velocity was around 90-91 MPH and had some movement on it, which allowed it to tail in towards right-handed batters. The problem was that he consistently left his fastball up in the zone in the majority of his outings and had poor command of his other pitches as well. His curveball had pretty good break and at times kept hitters off balance, but several hitters had no trouble timing it up and one has to believe the better hitters in MLB will be able to do the same, especially when he leaves it out over the plate. His changeup was also a similar story where he found some success with it but was inconsistent at best. His command issues are the major culprit of his spring ERA of 6.88 and allowing 25 hits in 17 spring innings. Bedard was brought to camp to possibly give the Rays a starter who could give them innings and kept them in games, but not much of what I’ve seen from Bedard this spring shows he can do that.
Ramos was a dark horse candidate for the fifth starter job when it was announced he was getting a look for the job but has looked pretty sharp this spring. He has shown excellent command of all of his pitches this spring. His fastball velocity is generally around 89-91 MPH and he was able to keep it down in the zone to generate a lot of groundballs. His curveball was excellent and showed a bit nastier break than it has in the past. It consistently kept hitters off balance and was generally his go to pitch. His changeup still needs work but it did seem to compliment his fastball just enough to throw hitters off a bit. He compiled a 2.63 ERA in 13.2 innings this spring while allowing 12 hits and striking out 11. He only walked 1 batter this spring, which was impressive. Ramos definitely turned some heads this spring training and has definitely made this battle interesting.
This won’t exactly be an easy decision but from what I’ve seen I believe Jake Odorizzi will be the Rays’ fifth starter. The improvement to his changeup has given him a legitimate third pitch and could turn into his go to pitch. He showed flashes of dominance with it and presents the most upside of all the candidates. Erik Bedard was too inconsistent with his command and hasn’t done anything to justify giving him the job. He will probably use his opt out clause and look for a job elsewhere. Cesar Ramos has done a lot to impress the Rays’ coaching staff but will probably be heading back to the bullpen once again. Until Jeremy Hellickson returns from the disabled list, Jake Odorizzi will most likely be taking the hill every five days from what I’ve seen this spring.