Rays Starting Pitching Is Stacked

By Dustin Staggers

With Spring Training two weeks from being complete I wanted to reiterate how excited I am for this 2009 baseball season to begin.  The Rays made an obvious huge step last season in making it to the World Series, and I see no way in which were not in competition for the AL East title again this year.  

The main thing that has me so stoked for this year is how good I think our starting pitching can be.  With all of our starters and potential starters other than Andy Sonnanstine having pitched at least 2 games in the Spring, I figured it was time to run through the stats.

  • James Shields – 6 IP, 3 HITS, 1 ER, 1BB, 5K, 1.50 ERA – Shields is our most likely opening day starter and the one proven innings eater on our team. 
  • Scott Kazmir – 6 IP, 8 HITS, 2 ER, 0BB, 4K, 3.00 ERA – Hopefully Kazmir can learn to go a little deeper in games this season and cut down on trying to strike out every hitter. 
  • Matt Garza – 6 IP, 6 HITS, 3 ER, 1BB, 3K, 4.50 ERA – I’m expecting a breakout campaign this year from Garza.  Most people believe last year was his breakout year, but I think with his stuff, he has the chance to be the Rays best pitcher. 
  • Jeff Niemann – 11 IP, 5 HITS, 1 ER, 3BB, 8K, 0.82 ERA – Rays fans have been waiting for Niemann to get a chance for a few years.  He appears to be free of injury issues, and has been dominant so far this spring.  Sleeper Alert.  
  • Jason Hammel – 12 IP, 12 HITS, 4 ER, 2 BB, 11K, 3.00 ERA – Hammel will most likely end up in long relief/spot start once again for the Rays.  He has proven to be a reliable pitcher in this role. 
  • Carlos Hernandez – 12 IP, 11 HITS, 3 ER, 5BB, 5K, 2.25  ERA – Most likely headed to AAA because of the options situation with Hammel and Niemann.  Hernandez has shown flashes of why everyone thought he had potential 2nd or 3rd starter with the Stros.  

Those are dominant stats from 6 guys, only 4 of which who will likely be in the rotation.  Add in the crafty, 20 different pitch throwing Andy Sonnanstine, and the ace like stuff of David Price and the Rays staff has the potential to be the best in baseball.  

I was talking to a friend yesterday about the possibility of even running with a 6 man staff once David Price eventually gets called back up.   He will start the season in AAA in order to recoup the service time that he accumulated last year after his call up.  He will be up though people, don’t fret.  I don’t see a downfall to a 6 man rotation as long as all 6 guys are quality guys, and to be perfectly honest, if the rotation went Shields, Kazmir, Garza, Sonnanstine, Niemann, Price, there are 4 ace caliber pitcher in that mix, a great #2 and a solid back end of the rotation guy in Sonnanstine in that mix.  Joe Maddon is about the least conventional Manager in the league, so employing this 6 man rotation probably is something he has already pondered.  Instead of the normal 30+ starts for each SP, we could be in the upper 20’s as far as games started and be very easy on our young guys arms.  

Regardless, the rest of the league, if they didn’t take notice after last season, better be ready for the 09 Rays.