The Tampa Bay Rays are well-known for some of the best management in baseball. With Andrew Friedman a magician with the tiny payroll the team has sustained and Joe Maddon the perfect manager to complement the front office’s strategy, the Rays continually make moves well ahead of other MLB teams. But that does not mean that they are perfect.
Faced with the dilemma of replacing Matt Moore, the Rays went to the bullpen and selected Cesar Ramos as their starter. Ramos is a journeyman lefty who has failed on at least two occasions to establish himself as a starter. In spring training, he lost out in the race to replace Jeremy Hellickson in the rotation. Maddon and Friedman had at least three other options at Durham, but they went with Ramos. With a chance to sweep the offensively impaired Reds, Ramos blew up in the second inning and the Rays went down to an embarrassing 12-4 loss.
Unfortunately, Ramos wasn’t the only thing to blow up on Sunday. The Rays bullpen was forced into six inning of work in a sure loss situation. Games like this destroy bullpens. Pitchers are creatures of habit and when you take a pitcher out of his comfort zone, they hate it. Being asked to give the team a couple of innings in a sure loss even if you get your butt kicked is not in anyone’s comfort zone. So, Sunday saw the Rays use five relief pitchers and three of them saw their era go above 5.00.
The whole day was clearly a mistake and it doesn’t get any easier from here. Alex Cobb is now out for 4-6 weeks and so the team now needs two emergency starters on top of Jake Odorizzi. Ramos should be automatically eliminated from the conversation–he is strictly a long reliever from here. The Rays have already called up Erik Bedard and he threw two of the only decent innings on Sunday. He will probably get the ball in Moore’s spot on Thursday. Beyond that, it’s pick your poison. Nate Karns looked good in his last outing and awful in the two before that. Enny Romero has looked OK, but not great and probably needs a full year at Triple-A. Mike Montgomery has been Durham’s best starting pitcher, but nobody’s had much confidence in him in the last two years. There is no obvious pitcher the Rays should resort to–all we know is that it should not be Cesar Ramos.
The Tampa Bay Rays can’t afford two mistakes in a row, so they better choose carefully. Let’s see what the gurus of baseball come up with as a solution. The season could be hanging on it.