I’m not going to be alarmist or anything like that. The season is still very young. If it were a person, it would still be carded when it tried to buy cigarettes. There are, however, a few changes that could be made. This season is in no danger of spinning out of control just yet but, as we have seen in previous seasons, if the Rays do not win now, they will have to make the wins up later in the season. That is always a risky proposition. What can the Rays do to end this tailspin?
The Rays’ current starting options, Cesar Ramos and Erik Bedard are not doing the job. It is time to delve into minors and see what one of the Rays’ prospects can do. Most of our writers here at Rays Colored Glasses do not like Cesar Ramos in the starting staff and with good reason. He has seen inconsistent results as a reliever–how could he possibly have success as a starter? Ramos does not have the arsenal to fool a batter on multiple occasions. His first start this season was not good, and that was in a National League park with a pitcher in the lineup. Ramos’ next start is this weekend against the New York Yankees and could very well decide his fate as a pitcher going forward.
Erik Bedard has a slightly longer leash because of his track record as a big league starter, but not by much. As shown by his first start against the New York Yankees, his stuff fools no one. Sure, it is just one start, but he is a pitcher who hasn’t been effective since 2011, and that is not about to change. How can the Rays expect to win games with both Ramos and Bedard in their rotation?
Enny Romero, Nate Karns, Mike Montgomery, Matt Andriese, and even Merrill Kelly deserve a look. To me, Enny Romero is the obvious choice of the group. His delivery sometimes is the root of his lack of control but that is slowly improving and it is only a matter of time before he is in the majors regardless. With a fastball touching 97 MPH, Romero has better stuff than current starters Erik Bedard and Cesar Ramos combined. He is inexperienced, but all the Rays need are pitchers who can keep them in games, and a prospect like Romero has the ability to do that.
The Tampa Bay Rays desperately need a hot bat. Slumps are mental. When a team is mired in a slump, the negative energy in palpable one through nine. That is why the Rays should call up Jerry Sands. Right now, Jerry Sands is smoking hot in Durham. Capable of playing both left field and first base, Sands has a .352/.470/.704 line through 66 plate appearances, drilling 7 doubles and 4 home runs to go along with an 11-12 strikeout to walk ratio. I am not suggesting Jerry Sands will make a big difference in the Rays this season, but the Rays need a spark and that is certainly something Sands can provide. What could it hurt?
By contrast, Logan Forsythe needs at-bats. He is not going to get consistent at-bats in Tampa Bay at the moment and that is why he needs to be sent to Durham. There is a lot to like about Forsythe. He can play multiple positions and has a decent bat to go along with it. For now, he has been getting the bulk of against left-handed pitching, but that’s it. Forsythe’s struggles this year stem from last year’s plantar fasciitis injury. Finally healthy, Forsythe needs to get his timing back and that probably will not happen in Tampa Bay. He has options left and can be sent down without being lost. The Rays could use their extra 40-man roster spot to add Sands while keeping Forsythe in the organization.
Especially with their lack of scoring, the Rays need to force the issue on the basepaths. How many times in the early part of this season have the Rays gotten a guy on first only to hit into a double play? The Rays need to start stealing bases, executing hit-and-runs, and taking the extra base when the opportunity arises. Early in the season, there was talk that the Rays were wanting Desmond Jennings to run more. Through 16 games, Jennings has one steal. The Rays as a team have four. By the way, the Rays have a player in Brandon Guyer with very good minor league stolen base numbers who has pinch-ran a grand total of twice this year. Why aren’t the Rays using him to try to start something on the basepaths when they get a runner on late in games?
The Tampa Bay Rays have the ability to put this rough start in the past, and they can do so without going outside their organization. Players like Enny Romero and Jerry Sands have the ability to provide the lift they have been waiting for. The Rays had a nice game on Friday night, but if their struggles resume, expect changes in the coming days and weeks.