After Jose De Leon was sent to the Tampa Bay Rays minor league camp, the Rays starting rotation seemed fairly obvious. The official announcement as to who would make the rotation removed any element of surprise.
When one envisioned the Tampa Bay Rays rotation at the start of Spring Training, there was only one spot that seemed up for grabs. Aside from the identity of the fifth starter, the rest of the starters looked as though they were locked in. Then, when Jose De Leon was sent back to the Rays minor league camp, that final spot appeared to belong to Matt Andriese.
As such, when the Rays announced their rotation the other day, there were not any surprises. As expected, Chris Archer will take the mound on Opening Day against the Yankees, looking to get the Rays season off on the right foot. Archer will be followed by Jake Odorizzi and Alex Cobb, two pitchers that have been frequently named in trade rumors during the past few months.
Blake Snell will fill the fourth spot in the rotation, with Andriese as the fifth starter. Although the Rays do have a few off days to start the season, manager Kevin Cash stated that there was never a thought of beginning the year with a four man rotation. All five starters will take the ball on their regular turn, regardless of the number of days off.
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Just like the structure of the pitching staff, this idea makes sense as well. The Rays rotation will theoretically be able to pitch deeper into the game, as the added breaks between starts should help keep the rotation well rested at the start of the year.
Likewise, the Rays are expecting a strong performance from their top arms. Archer looked good during the World Baseball Classic, and said that he had never felt this good in March. Odorizzi had a strong ending to the season, with the Rays hopeful that it carries over. Cobb is another year removed from Tommy John surgery, and is looking to get back to the form he displayed in 2013 and 2014.
Should the rotation perform as expected, it could well be the strength of the Rays. Given their track record, as well as the upside possessed by Cobb and Snell, the Rays could find themselves in position to make some noise this season. But it all needs to start with the rotation starting strong.
The Tampa Bay Rays did not have any surprises in their starting rotation. However, the rotation could well be a surprise itself with a strong performance this season.