Rays News

Talented Durham Pitching Staff Bails Out Rays

By David Egbert
Jun 7, 2017; St. Petersburg, FL, USA; Tampa Bay Rays starting pitcher Jacob Faria (34) is congratulated at the dugout at the end of the first inning against the Chicago White Sox at Tropicana Field. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
Jun 7, 2017; St. Petersburg, FL, USA; Tampa Bay Rays starting pitcher Jacob Faria (34) is congratulated at the dugout at the end of the first inning against the Chicago White Sox at Tropicana Field. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports /
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Where will the Rays find this week’s fresh arms? Look no further than at Triple-A Durham the team’s top minor league affiliate.

The Rays’ pitching staff has been hit by enough injuries to cripple most major league teams. The team currently has ten pitchers who are either currently on the disabled list or have been on the DL at sometime during the season.

Add to that Blake Snell failing to live up to his potential and being optioned back to Durham and you sometimes wonder where the Rays will find this week’s fresh arms.

In addition to Snell’s non-injury related troubles, the key arms that have gone down to injury are Matt Andriese, Brad Boxberger and Xavier Cedeno. Erasmo Ramirez stepped in to take Snell’s place in the rotation and has done a fine job.

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The rest of replacements have come from Durham’s talented pitching staff. This is a group that, at one time of another this season, has had ten present or past top thirty prospects and two other pitchers who should have a big league future.

The Durham starting rotation includes #9 prospect Jacob Faria, former #1 prospect Blake Snell, #2 prospect Brent Honeywell, #23 prospect Ryan Yarbrough and sleeper Yonny Chirinos. Jose De Leon, #3 prospect, is on the 7-day disabled list.

Faria has already made one successful major league start and will pitch for the Rays tonight in place of Matt Andriese. At Durham, Faria has a 6-1 record, a 3.07 ERA and 84 strikeouts in 53 innings.

Snell will probably return to the Rays rotation once the team in convinced he has solved his command issues. He currently has a 4-0 record with a 2.53 ERA and 44 strikeouts to 12 walks in 32 innings at Durham.

Honeywell, De Leon and Yarbrough will probably spend the rest of the AAA season at Durham. Honeywell has top of the rotation stuff but he is still young. De Leon needs to get healthy. Yarbrough came over in a trade from Seattle and is still a bit of an unknown.

In the bullpen, the problems have been deeper and the solutions not so readily available. Unfortunately, the Rays have not, until recently, worked on developing relief pitchers at the minor league level.

They went into spring training with three right handed starters, #8 prospect Chih-Wei Hu, #16 prospect Ryne Stanek and sleeper Austin Pruitt as the best options.

Only Stanek had experienced much relief work in the minors. So when setup man Brad Boxberger and lefty specialist Xaiver Cedeno went down to injuries, there were no obvious candidates to take their place.

Pruitt made the Rays team out of spring training but was too inconsistent to be a setup man, Hu was recalled from Durham a couple of times and worked well in long relief but he too had no experience as a setup man.

Stank will probably work into that role but he gives up too many long balls and needs to develop a second pitch that he can throw for strikes with confidence.

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There were no lefties at Durham so the Rays had to dip down to AA Montgomery and recall lefty Jose Alvarado. Fortunately, Alvarado has a huge arm and had pitched relief in the minors. His work has been acceptable with a 3.60 ERA in 15 innings.

All of this has left the Rays trying to cobble together a late inning relief group and it has cost them a number of games. Moving Ramirez to the starting rotation didn’t help. However, Boxberger should be back soon and Tommy Hunter seems to be rounding into shape. Danny Farquhar is a right-hander but his cutter and changeup make him a fairly decent option against left handed hitters.

In addition to Hu and Stanek, Durham has # 15 prospect Jaime Schultz and Jeff Ames in their bullpen. Schultz is currently on the disabled list but when he comes back, he will add another power arm to their bullpen.

Ames, like Pruitt, is a sleeper, who consistently strikes to get batters out. He has 40 strikeouts in 30 innings this season.

With Andriese out until August, Alex Cobb probably due to be traded before the end of July and a bullpen constantly in flux, they will need all the help they can get from a very talented Durham pitching staff.

Next: Jacob Faria returning to Tampa Bay Rays rotation

Its great for the Rays to have this much pitching depth at the AAA level. Let’s hope they live up to their billing.

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