The Tampa Bay Rays lost 4-2 to the Kansas City Royals on Monday, but unfortunately they lost more than just a game. After Moore grimaced on a pitch to Norichika Aoki, the Rays immediately knew that something was wrong. Initial tests diagnosed Moore with left elbow soreness and the injury is expected to be relatively minor, but there is still a real chance that Moore ends up on the disabled list. The Rays could be better off keeping Moore out for a couple of starts than risking a bigger injury. But if Moore is going to miss three or four starts, how are the Rays going to replace him?
Coincidentally, starting last night at Triple-A Durham was Erik Bedard, and the veteran lefty even pitched well. Bedard went 4 innings allowing just 1 run on 2 hits, striking out 5 while walking 1. Isn’t Bedard as ready as he will ever be? Well, alarm bells have to go off when we realize that Bedard threw only 60 pitches, putting in question whether he could possibly provide length in five days. The Rays signed Bedard for big league depth, but at least for Moore’s next scheduled start on Saturday, he is not going to be ready.
With Bedard not stretched out yet anyway, the Rays might as well resort to Cesar Ramos. Ramos also pitched yesterday, albeit for only one inning, and while we can’t think that he can go 5 innings, it isn’t crazy to say that he could match Bedard’s 4. The Rays will be left with an open roster spot if they do not add Bedard, and they could use it to call up another reliever like C.J. Riefenhauser. Riefenhauser would give the Rays an interesting left-handed option, one that went at least 2 innings in 17 appearances in 2013. If Ramos goes 4 innings and Riefenhauser goes 2, the Rays are through 6 innings and can hand it off to the rest of the bullpen. With Josh Lueke another pitcher capable of going multiple innings, the Rays could easily survive a shorter start every five days. That goes within saying that Ramos could work his way up to 5 or 6 innings after a start or two.
If the Rays are going to add a reliever to the roster, though, why not add Bedard? Bedard is not on the 40-man roster, but the Rays have plenty of open spots as their 40-man roster is at only 38 right now. Then the Rays could use Ramos and Bedard to possibly toss an entire game together, or hand off to the bullpen in the 8th or 9th. Tandem starting might not make sense in the long-term, but it may be the Rays’ best option for a start or two. Doing so, however, would have two major issues. The first would be that the Rays would have to designate Bedard for assignment after Moore returned, and if he pitched well, the Rays would likely lose him. Secondly, the Rays would be down to only six relievers if they are relying on both Ramos and Bedard to provide length. Is it worth wasting an extra bullpen spot to have Bedard on the roster over a player like Riefenhauser?
Finally, the Rays do have one final option who can replace Matt Moore: Nate Karns. Karns’ first start of the Triple-A season was an unadulterated disaster as he walked 7 in just 2.2 innings pitched, but he is scheduled to pitch again tonight and does have a trio of big league appearances. Plus he is already on the 40-man roster. At the very least, Karns represents an interesting option for one spot-start. Chris Archer burst onto the scene replacing Jeremy Hellickson for a couple of starts in 2012, and Karns would hope to follow the same path. Don’t be totally shocked if we see briefly see Karns if Moore hits the disabled list.
For Matt Moore’s next scheduled start, it seems like a pretty good bet that Cesar Ramos will be making an appearance. If the Rays replace Moore on the roster, they can add a bat like Vince Belnome to their squad to the next few days before adding either Bedard or a reliever like Riefenhauser to their roster on Saturday to help them get through that game. Then for any subsequent starts Moore would miss, the Rays would have the ability to choose between Ramos, Bedard, and Nate Karns in each contest. The Rays have to hope that Moore will be able to avoid a DL stint, but if he does not, they have options to take his place. The Rays’ pitching depth has been tested time after time, and they will be just fine once again if they need to use it now.