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Tampa Bay Rays – Why Not Stretch Out Ryne Stanek?

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ST PETERSBURG, FL - JUNE 07: Ryne Stanek #55 of the Tampa Bay Rays pitches during a game against the Seattle Mariners at Tropicana Field on June 7, 2018 in St Petersburg, Florida. (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)
ST PETERSBURG, FL - JUNE 07: Ryne Stanek #55 of the Tampa Bay Rays pitches during a game against the Seattle Mariners at Tropicana Field on June 7, 2018 in St Petersburg, Florida. (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)
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Ryne Stanek was drafted in the late first round of the 2013 MLB Draft by the Tampa Bay Rays.  He had a stellar career at the University of Arkansas, recognized as one of the more dominant starting pitchers in college baseball.

The Tampa Bay Rays were most likely surprised when Ryne Stanek dropped to the 29th pick in the 2013 draft.  If it weren’t for Aaron Nola, he most likely would have been the SEC Pitcher of the Year, compiling a 10-2 record that season with a 1.39 ERA in 16 starts.

Overall, during his three year college career, 45 of his 48 mound appearances were starts.  He finished his career with a 22-8 record and 2.55 ERA. All of this adds up to the fact that at one point, he was a pretty good starter.  Even throughout his ascension through the Rays minor league system, he has done more starting than relieving.  I just wonder if he doesn’t have a little more in his tank to offer the “Opener” role.

Extending the role of the opener

To me, if there was ever a candidate to go just an inning or two deeper than he currently is, Ryne Stanek fills that role.  We might just be seeing evidence that this is happening, so I hope the trend continues. Stanek’s past three opens have been for two innings each.  It just seems like there would be a benefit to pushing that responsibility out even just one more inning.  Of course, naysayers can look at his stats and say he’s worst against the 7-9 hitters, which is true.  They hit .190 against him, compared to .171 from the first three and .123 from the middle of the order.

Next: Breaking down the Rays' first half

I get that this all runs askew once batters get on base.  But, I would argue that a pitcher like Stanek could handle a second time through the order.  Typically, he is challenged to face three tough right-handed hitters.  That’s the purpose of the Opener. Put a fresh arm on the mound at the beginning of the game to face hitters that are usually the toughest outs.  But, remarkable to me, Stanek has yet to pitch in the third inning at all this season.

I think the role of the Opener gains steam if he can get through the first three innings.  Then, a having a second pitcher work the middle three creates a great opportunity to play matchups over the final three innings.  In the end, that should be an effective way to work the pitching staff through these games.  If Nathan Eovaldi and Chris Archer end up being traded, this could become more important.

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