Joe Maddon doesn’t like using his starting pitchers against divisional foes in spring training. But if last night’s game against the Yankees is any indication, Maddon takes the opposite approach with his hitters.
It is only logical that Maddon hides his starting pitchers (they will often pitch in a minor league game on days the Rays face divisional rivals). The more the Yankees and Red Sox hitters see the Rays Big 5 starting pitchers, the more likely those hitters will find a comfort zone. And the key to successful pitching is keeping hitters uncomfortable.
So if there is an advantage for hitters to get extra hacks against Rays pitchers, than it only seems logical that Rays lineup regulars would not only start against division foes, but also stay in the game longer.
And that is exactly what happened last night.
Typically, Maddon will pull his regulars after either five or six innings in spring games. But last night against the Yankees, with Bartolo Colon working six innings, Maddon kept his regulars in the game longer than usual.
Several players made their longest outings of the spring, including Evan Longoria, who worked seven innings, and Sean Rodriguez and Reid Brignac, who both stayed in the game through eight innings.
We have said many times, that the most important stat in spring training is playing time. And last night’s playing time taught us that JoeMa isn’t just going through the motions with less than two weeks until opening day.