The Rays tend to keep things close to the vest and that is by design. But if you listen carefully, sometimes you can deduce pieces of their master plan for world domination. We recently saw this with quotes from Joe Maddon and Andrew Friedman about Jeff Niemann that suggested they see Niemann more as a dominating reliever even though they insist he is in competition for the final rotation spot.

Another pitcher that has crept into recent conversations regarding the final spot in the rotation is Carlos Hernandez. The once top prospect in the Astros organization, has looked solid this spring despite not pitching in the majors since 2004. Even though the Rays have never officially announced he has a shot at the rotation, many people have recently wondered if he does.

Gary Shelton of the St. Pete Times has a column up today looking at the comeback bid of Hernandez and how he got here. But what caught our attention was a quote from pitching coach Jim Hickey buried all the way at the bottom of the article (emphasis is ours).

“He’s interesting,” said Rays pitching coach Jim Hickey, who was the Astros’ Triple-A pitching coach when Hernandez was with the organization. “The first day we threw here, I was shocked. His arm action was so much better than it had been….”Look back at last year’s spring training. Maybe Carlos becomes this year’s J.P. Howell.

In other words, he is not a candidate for the rotation and at this point the Rays are looking at Carlos as a reliever that can pitch multiple innings. Maddon loves relievers that can come into the middle of an inning, retire the side, and then go back out to the mound after sitting between innings. This was something that made JP Howell so valuable last season.

So if Hernandez is out and David Price is destined for Durham and recent quotes suggest Niemann is destined for the bullpen and the early struggles of Mitch Talbot make him a longshot (who also has minor league options), the fight for the final spot may be down to Jason Hammel and…Jason Hammel?

Pitcher Carlos Hernandez flashes bit of his old potential for the Tampa Bay Rays [St. Pete Times]


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