Could Jake Odorizzi Be the Rays’ Secret Weapon?

By David Hill

It seems like every year, a player emerges from out of nowhere to become a playoff hero. Buddy Biancalana briefly became a minor celebrity with his appearances on the David Letterman Show after the 1985 World Series. Francisco Cabrera will never have to purchase a beer in Atlanta due to his series clinching hit against the Pirates in 1992. Francisco Rodriguez, Adam Wainwright and the Rays own David Price all earned a place in the national consciousness through their postseason performances, using those outings as a springboard to their careers.

Seemingly every year, a virtual unknown rises from the depths of obscurity to play a prominent role on a playoff team; a young player seemingly with his career ahead of him turns the October spotlight into his personal coming out party. Aside from Price, the Rays have seen Matt Moore do the same in 2011 against the Texas Rangers, in a start that no one expected would be nearly that good.

For the Rays, the best candidate to continue that trend may end up being Jake Odorizzi. Despite a rough debut for the Rays between treks to Durham, he had still displayed positive signs. His strikeout to walk rate of 14:4 was solid, even though he appeared afraid to attack the opposition at times. However, if yesterday’s performance was any indication, his possible trepidation in difficult situations may have gone away.

Odorizzi not only displayed excellent poise and confidence, but he also had far better command of his pitches, particularly his fastball. What the Rays saw yesterday was not the prospect that struggled in his first four appearances for the club, but a pitcher who appeared to have turned the corner and tapped into the potential that caused Odorizzi to be considered a top prospect.

Should that confidence and command carry over through September, Odorizzi could find himself as surprise member of the pitching staff for a potential playoff run. Armed with improved command and the belief that he truly belongs in the majors, Odorizzi could end up being a vital cog in the bullpen in October, and may even get a surprise start should Moore have a setback or struggle in his return and Jeremy Hellickson continues his struggles.

All Jake Odorizzi may need to be that postseason surprise is a chance. If yesterday is any indication, he may be on his way to getting one.