A Point of View: Innings Eaters

By David Egbert

Baseball jargon has loads of terms for average ballplayers. They could be a journeyman, punch and judy hitter or innings eater. They dot the rosters of most every team. Frankly, unless their name is Sam Fuld, I’d rather not have any of them on my team and my least favorite is the innings eater.

Innings eaters come in two forms. One is the last guy in the bullpen who is used when your usually reliable starter blows up after 3 or 4 innings. The poor guy is told to go into a game that is probably lost and give the manager 3 or 4 innings of work. The second is the 5th guy in the rotation. Most teams have only four quality starters at best and this guy is told to work every 5th day for 6 to 8 innings no matter what happens in the game. The goal is to save the bullpen to help out the more reliable starters.

Usually the Rays have five solid starters. This year, for one of the few times in the Joe Maddon era, the Rays have an innings eater. His name is Roberto Hernández. Like most veteran innings eaters, Hernandez, under the name of Fausto Carmona, was once a prospect. He even won 19 games one year. After that, things started to go south and he ended up with the Rays on a one year, $3million contact.

Roberto’s thinking is this is a chance to restart his career. The Rays thinking is that they get innings out of the strong armed Hernandez while saving the bullpen for their pitch count impaired young starters. It hasn’t worked well for either of them. Hernandez has a 4-9 record, a five dollar era and has given up 15 home runs. The latter is not a good number if you are billing yourself as a ground ball pitcher. The Rays have gotten less than 6 innings in most starts and had hoped for a better record than 4-9.

It’s not like the Rays didn’t have other options. We have all seen Chris Archer and we like him. You also get the feeling that either Jake Odorizzi or Alex Colome would be better than 4-9 at this point. I know the Rays don’t like to rush prospects but Archer has thrown over 700 innings in the minors and Odorizzi and Colome over 500. All three are top 5 prospects. Most major league teams would kill to have one or more of these guys in their rotation.

Hernandez pitched well in his last start. He gave the Rays 8 innings and lost to the unhittable R. A. Dickey. Archer is, for the moment, replacing David Price and Odorizzi and Colome are on the Durham shuttle replacing Alex Cobb. However, I can do the math and there’s an extra starter here and more when Price comes back. Let’s go for it Rays. The future looks a lot better than the present…