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Tampa Bay Rays: Scenarios for Returns of Drew Smyly, Alex Colome

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Sep 15, 2014; St. Petersburg, FL, USA; Tampa Bay Rays relief pitcher Alex Colome (37) talks with catcher Curt Casali (59) against the New York Yankees at Tropicana Field. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

1) Start Both Ramirez and Andriese

This looks like the option that the Rays are least likely to go with. Neither Ramirez nor Andriese has pitched well, and it would be quite a strain on the Rays’ bullpen to pitch them back-to-back. If there is any version of the idea that could work, it would be the following: Andriese starts on the 24th before getting demoted in favor of a long reliever on the 25th. If the Rays are calling up a long reliever anyway, though, why would they be starting Ramirez?

2) Start Andriese and Then Have a Bullpen Day

This is a real choice that the Rays could make. Andriese certainly didn’t look like as much of a lost cause as Ramirez, and there is no need to rush a different starter to make sure that he doesn’t get another outing. In addition, the Rays won’t find another opportunity for a bullpen day until they have a 26th man on their roster for a doubleheader. Not only could they send down Andriese, but they could also demote another reliever who is overextended.

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Now that we have cleared a few hurdles, though, our next ones arrive. We have heard that Colome is closer than Smyly, but if he doesn’t start on April 24th or 25th, then he would be getting an extra rehab start for no reason. Chris Archer will be ready to start again on the 26th, Karns on the 27th, and Odorizzi on the 28th. The 29th would be Smyly’s day, so Colome wouldn’t start until the 30th? Wait a second–the Rays actually have an off-day on the 30th, so now we’re up to May 1st, when Archer will be available again.

The Rays could move everyone back a day and start Colome on the 26th, but should the Rays really inconvenience their four other starters for a pitcher in Colome who has his own set of concerns? Colome is certainly better than Andriese and Ramirez, but even his most optimistic supporters would only describe him as the Rays’ fourth starter, putting him ahead of only Nate Karns. Let’s address that now.

3) Start Andriese and Either Smyly or Colome

I grouped two different scenarios together, but the Andriese and Smyly case doesn’t really make sense. If the Rays start Smyly on his scheduled day on the 24th and then Andriese on the 25th, they would lose the advantage of sending down Andriese for the 25th. If Smyly will start for the Rays on the 24th, then it doesn’t make sense for Andriese to be on the team at the time.

The Andriese and Colome pairing is more interesting. The Rays could have as many as two fresh relievers working behind Colome, so if he pitched well, it wouldn’t be as big of a deal if he didn’t last long. Then, as we started saying above, he wouldn’t be needed to start again for a long time–May 5th to be exact. With that in mind, one option for the Rays would be to have him start on short rest on the 25th and go say 50 or 55 pitches and then have him available for relief.

The Rays always hope that they never need a long reliever, and the danger is that a pitcher waiting to appear in long relief can’t toss bullpen sessions. With that in mind, Colome’s availability in relief would be limited–maybe he could toss an inning or two on April 29th (behind Smyly) or May 1st (behind Archer), but that would be it. On May 2nd at the latest, he would need to get that bullpen session in. At that point, what’s the point of even having him over an ordinary reliever?

The advantages would be that Colome has better stuff than a lot of the Rays’ relievers and that even three innings from him would be more than the Rays’ other bullpen arms are comfortable providing. Especially given all of the injuries, the Rays need their best available pitchers on their roster. Colome numbers among them, and even though his current schedule complicates matters, it may be worth putting him through a short outing or two to get him on the team.

4) Start Smyly or Colome and Then Have a Bullpen Day

Drew Smyly got up to 68 pitches in his last rehab start. The Tampa Bay Rays have talked about giving him an extra minor league outing, but does that really make sense at this point? He didn’t look that great last time, but if he is healthy, as he certainly appears to be, that shouldn’t make a difference. He is better than Colome, not to mention every other pitcher that could make this start, and has thrown more pitches. It makes sense that he should be getting the ball for that game.

Since a start on short rest for Colome would essentially create bullpen day anyway, it doesn’t make sense for him to start unless Andriese or Smyly is going the day before him. If Smyly is starting and then the Rays have a bullpen day, though, that would set up Colome more nicely than before. The Rays could call him up on the 26th and then have him available to provide length anytime between that game and the 29th.

The dream would be to have Colome throw the last three innings of a blowout win, but he would also be available in case anybody had a rough start. Then the Rays could have him toss a bullpen session or two in preparation for his start on May 5th and maybe get him in for another inning of a game on his throw day like we saw with Cesar Ramos last year.

5) Start Both Smyly and Colome

The argument for this option is that the Rays would be getting their best starters on the mound. On the other hand, we can’t be sure that Smyly is ready and Colome starting on short rest might not be as good as him coming up the next day. It seems doubtful that the Rays will be start both Smyly and Colome the next time through their rotation.

6) Start Andriese and a Triple-A Call-Up

Finally, let’s go in a completely different direction. If the Rays really want Smyly to get one more rehab start and won’t call up Colome until April 26th at the earliest, then they have the ability to call up not just an extra reliever, but even a Triple-A starter. Since James Loney is set to return on April 22nd or soon after, Allan Dykstra could be designated for assignment to make room for someone else, who would presumably pitch once before getting DFA’d himself.

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Andriese could start on the 24th, and then the Rays could call up Scott Diamond, Everett Teaford or even Dylan Floro. Floro is easily the most interesting of that group and he does need to be added to the 40-man roster prior to this year’s Rule 5 Draft anyway, but the Rays won’t burn a 40-man roster spot on him for just one game. For the other two, meanwhile, their unimpressive big league track records don’t make them great candidates to start. It would be more likely for them to be up in case the Rays get a big lead and want length later in the game.

Conclusion

Given everything we have said, the possibilities that make the most sense are either Andriese starting on the 24th followed by a bullpen day or Smyly starting on the 24th and then a bullpen day. Which option the Tampa Bay Rays choose will depend on whether they think Smyly is ready or not. Even if Colome is readier than Smyly in theory, it doesn’t seem to make sense for the Rays to have his first big league game of the year come on short rest.

The Rays’ roster moves should quickly tell us which path they are going to choose. When Allan Dykstra is designated for assignment as James Loney returns on April 23rd, if Matt Andriese isn’t starting, he should also be optioned to Triple-A at that time. The only reason he wouldn’t be optioned sooner is that the Rays literally have no other pitcher they can call up without DFAing someone else. Kirby Yates can’t return until April 24th while both Enny Romero and Grayson Garvin are currently hurt.

If Andriese is optioned, though, then the Rays could call up Scott Diamond for the 23rd before he gets DFA’d to make room for Smyly on the 25-man roster on the 24th. Next, they would promote Yates before or after the game that day with either Jose Dominguez or C.J. Riefenhauser heading back to Triple-A Durham. Whichever one lasted would be demoted when Colome returns on the 26th.

If Andriese is starting, meanwhile, the Rays will do nothing other than activating Loney and designating Dykstra between now and the 24th. Then, after the game on the 24th, they will option Andriese to call up either Scott Diamond or Everett Teaford. Dominguez or Riefenhauser, meanwhile, will still be demoted before or after that game in favor of Yates depending on how fresh they are. Colome would then replace Diamond or Teaford on the 26th before Smyly replaces whichever of Dominguez or Riefenhauser “survived” on the 29th.

There are a lot of balls that the Tampa Bay Rays are juggling right now as they figure out what their roster will look like in the next week, but all of the complications are fine because their team is about to get stronger. Getting Drew Smyly and Alex Colome back will be a huge lift for the Rays, and they just want to ensure that their returns go as smoothly as possible.

Next: The Undercards: Durham Bulls Lose Despite Dylan Floro’s CG

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