As Marc Topkin tweets, Cesar Ramos was named as the Tampa Bay Rays’ 5th starter after Matt Moore‘s injury opened up a rotation spot. He will start Sunday’s game, and the Rays will likely send Kevin Kiermaier back to Triple-A in order to bring up an additional reliever. What made Ramos the best fifth starter candidate?
Ramos might not have the most upside of the group of Rays’ 5th starter candidates, but he is their best option for now. The only other player that the Rays have in Triple-A with significant big league experience is Erik Bedard, but he has been mediocre the last couple of years. Ramos was stellar this spring training, posting a 3.45 ERA, but striking out 13 and walking just one batter in his 15.2 innings of work. He has been good in the early parts of this season as well, as he has allowed just one run and one walk in his 4.0 innings of work. The Rays have plenty of other pitchers with upside in Triple-A, such as Nate Karns, Enny Romero, and Matt Andriese, but none have proven themselves above the Double-A level. Rather than entrusting an inexperienced player with a big league job, the Rays have made a smart decision by giving Ramos the 5th starter job, as he has the best combination of youth and experience.
With Ramos being moved to the rotation, the Rays will need to call up a reliever to take his spot in the bullpen. Kiermaier is currently in the big leagues as an extra left-handed bat of the bench, and is almost guaranteed to be sent back down. As Topkin tweets, it appears that Bedard will be the one called up to take the bullpen spot. At first look this looks strange, as the Rays currently have a host of minor league players that are used to pitching out of the bullpen, while Bedard has started his entire career. But, it makes sense because neither Ramos or Bedard are stretched out enough to take on a full starter’s work load. They were the Rays’ two best candidates for the final rotation spot, and while Ramos is technically now the 5th starter, they could be put into a piggy-back system, at least until Ramos is more stretched out. Ramos is slated to pitch around 75 pitches in Sunday’s contest, and Bedard could come in to throw the next 75 pitches or so. If the Rays had wanted to go with pure dominance out of the bullpen, Brad Boxberger, who has 11 K’s in 5.2 minor league innings this year, would have been the obvious choice. You could argue that Bedard is just taking over the swingman role that Ramos previously occupied, but Boxberger too is capable of going multiple innings. Therefore, it makes plenty of sense that the Rays are planning on using a piggy-back system with Ramos and Bedard.
The Tampa Bay Rays made the right choice by naming Cesar Ramos the 5th starter, as he has the best combination of present ability and big league experience among the Rays’ options. Ramos will start Sunday’s game, and will be in the rotation at least until Jeremy Hellickson is ready to return in mid-late May. Ramos is starting, but Bedard could play just as important of a role out of the bullpen. Overall, the Rays are lucky that they have two qualified candidates to step up and fill the gap that Moore’s injury leaves.