It took a while, but things might just be starting to finally fall into place for the Tampa Bay Rays. Their 19-24 record still leaves much to be desired, but the struggling rotation has looked great in their last few starts, and an inconsistent offense has started putting a few more runs up on the board. On top of that, Alex Cobb is about to provide a big boost when he returns from injury. Cobb has been on the shelf with an oblique strain, and his absence has done nothing but compound the Rays rotation issues. But, Cobb is finally making a rehab start on Saturday, and could be ready to return to the Rays in a week or two, depending how cautious they are with his rehab start/starts. With Cobb’s impending return, it is now time to start considering how the Rays will accommodate him on the roster.
The most likely situation is that Cobb will come back and replace Cesar Ramos in the rotation. Ramos has pitched admirably since being forced to move from the bullpen to the rotation, and has give up two runs or less in four of his six starts. However, if you look at the entire Rays rotation in terms of projected performance moving forward, Ramos is probably the odd man out. If Ramos is indeed replaced in the rotation, he would not be released or outrighted, rather he would just be moved back to the bullpen as a long reliever, something the Rays currently don’t have. To make room for him there, someone else would have to be sent back down. This would come down between Brad Boxberger and Brandon Gomes, as they are the only two pitchers in the Rays ‘pen with a remaining option. Boxberger has been solid this year, posting a 2.53 ERA in his 10.2 innings, but his command could still use significant refinement in the minors. On the other hand, Gomes was throwing just as well as any Rays reliever until a rough past week has ballooned his ERA to 4.66. Despite Boxberger being the one going up and down multiple times already this season, I’d have to say that Gomes will be the one sent down. But, it is a tossup who would end up being sent down.
There is also a chance that Cobb could replace Erik Bedard in the rotation. The veteran southpaw has seen iffy performance over the last couple of years, and while his 2.78 ERA this year has been outstanding, he isn’t likely to sustain it. But, he has pitched better than Ramos, and also has more experience, so he is likely to stay in the rotation at least until Jeremy Hellickson is ready to return in mid-late June. If Bedard were replaced, he could either be moved to the bullpen as a long reliever, or he could just be released. However, the way that Bedard has pitched as of late has likely guaranteed him a rotation spot for the time being.
The last player that could be replaced is Jake Odorizzi, who might have been the most likely candidate until he has pitched well his last two times out. His 4.89 ERA isn’t good, but the Rays might have finally found a pitch mix that works for him, and that has led to Odorizzi throwing 11 scoreless innings in his past two starts. If the Rays still don’t like how his stuff has looked, there is still a .01% chance that Odorizzi is sent down to Triple-A to iron out some issues. However, that almost assuredly won’t be the case, and it seems that Odorizzi’s rotation spot is safe for the time being.
The Rays have a great situation, a statement we might not have heard once this year. Their rotation is finally pitching well, and it will receive an even bigger boost soon when Alex Cobb returns from injury. It seems like Cesar Ramos is the most likely to be replaced in the Rays rotation, though that isn’t 100% guaranteed. We never know what Andrew Friedman is thinking; we just know that whatever move he makes will likely be the right one.