Roberto HernandezJoe Maddon revealed today that Roberto Hernandez will indeed be the fifth starter to start the season. However, in a bit of a wrinkle, Hernandez will pitch a simulated game on short rest tomorrow and move up to the third game of the season. Here is how the rotation will work the first week…

  1. David Price
  2. Jeremy Hellickson
  3. Roberto Hernandez
  4. Matt Moore
  5. Alex Cobb

The feeling is that Hernandez will work deeper in games, splitting up Hellickson and Moore, two pitchers that don’t often work deep into games, thus helping the bullpen.

Deviating from the spring rotation is unusual for Maddon. There may have been two reasons why Maddon was OK with this move (as opposed to just using Hernandez in the third spot all along). Moore, who has struggled this spring, will now get an extra day of rest before his first start of the season. Maddon may have felt this was important. Also, Maddon may have been less concerned about moving a veteran like Hernandez. This was a move that Maddon would have never pulled with one of the young arms, or even Niemann who has always needed extra rest whenever possible in his career.

Of course, in reality, the Rays have seven starting pitchers, at least early on. If Moore continues to struggle, he could be headed to a DL vacation to clear his head, rest his arm, and get some work in the minors. Maddon could then turn to Niemann or Chris Archer. Of course, as we learned last year with Wade Davis, the window for Niemann is short. At some point he will stop being a starting pitcher option and will be in the bullpen for the long haul. At that point, Archer will be the backup starting pitcher.

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44 Comments

  1. Mr.Smith 1980 says:

    BUMP:
    So Niemann to the ‘pen is official, and the apologists can give up their fight. Good call, Prof.
    Still any chance he gets traded before Tuesday (20%?)?

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    • Cork Gaines says:

      I'm sure they will talk to teams, but I'm not sure how desperate anybody is. The Rockies are possible. And the Mets could be a new candidate.

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      • Mr.Smith 1980 says:

        Any particular package from the Mets that seems feasible?

        Just a quick look at their 40 man didn't show any obvious trade potential with the exception of D'Arnaud whom I assume they wouldn't be willing to move unless we added another piece.

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        • Tom says:

          I think if they make a trade with the Mets, you are looking at a player like Lucas Duda and a Grade B prospect.

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      • Bill says:

        Thoughts are that putting Giraffe in the pen and allowing him to bring his velo back up will increase his trade potential. Rumors that scouts are concerned about his alleged loss of velo. I think either Rays pitchers were holding off by design, they had a cold gun this spring, or both.

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  2. Alex says:

    How long does everyone give this experiment before it fails?

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    • MarkE says:

      Before it fails? Or before JoeMad admits it failed and changes it???

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    • Rob says:

      I predict Hernandez goes 1-4 in 9 starts with a 4.5+ ERA and gets released.

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      • Mr.Smith 1980 says:

        I predict that your prediction is just ridiculous. A more realistic expectation for his first 9 starts would be 3-3 with a 3.5- 4.0 ... no one is saying he's the next Verlander, but a #5 who can hold court with numbers like that is plenty good enough.

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        • Rob says:

          I respect your opinion and admit what you just described could happen, and I would be happy with that. I just think there are too many variables with this guy and that sort of scares me. I agree 1-4 is pessimistic, but I also think 3-3 is optimistic and reality will be something in between.

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  3. MarkE says:

    Matt Moore scares me. I'd like to see Cobb in the 2 or 3 spot.

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    • Mike says:

      Matt Moore scares opposing teams. He has always been a slow starter, but should be dominant this year. Hopefully he has a season like Price did in 2010.

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  4. Gus says:

    Pennants aren't won in April, but they sure can be lost. This is the worst decision from the organization since the 2009 decision to leave Percival as the closer despite a miserable March and April -- a decision that cost them that season and all momentum coming out of the world series in terms of fan interest and team confidence. This Hernandez decision was not based on data, but based on $ and on gut and GM ego.

    To make him the 3 starter is even dumber; Cobb is today probably their second best- pitcher. To pitch him 5th is an insult to all he has done over the past year.

    Free Chris Archer. Let the best players play.

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    • Ricky C says:

      Archer's time will come. Regardless of his "starter slot" this was a better move than Niemann.

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  5. Rob says:

    As bad as this decision is, I think Jamey Wright is going to be worse. Look for his ERA to balloon around 6. The Rays have done a amazing job with their reclamation projects, but I think this is one that goes bad. I admit I could be totally wrong as I am not in camp everyday and they know a lot more about baseball than I do, but I just have a gut feeling on this one.

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    • Gus says:

      You are right based on what he's put on tape this spring at least. Wright can't find the strike zone; a sinkerballer who misses high. Shades of 2007 Shawn Camp. Gomes much better.

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  6. Gus says:

    Next time the Rays say they have a competition in camp, it will again be a lie. Spring training performance clearly doesn't matter. Not one bit. You could barely have pitched worse than Hernandez did this spring, and a guy in his mid-30's gets the #3 slot on the best pitching staff in baseball? Hiding guys in Durham, keeping their clocks stalled, all of that matters more than putting the best team on the field. It is a joke to have Lobaton on the team over Gimenez; to have Loney playing 1B over either Duncan or Anderson; to have Archer and Gomes not on the staff out of camp. I know it is a long season, but this is a farce.

    They will regret this roster I fear. I'd also note, that they have been terrible in the last two weeks of spring training. No offense despite high winds and favorable batting conditions in Florida most days. Barely ever having more than 2-3 starters in the line-up. Tough to turn it on when you treat the spring like they have down the stretch. Longoria, Des, Rodney, Cobb and Price look ready to go. The rest of the big league team, not so much.

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    • Sarah says:

      The Archer/Gomes decisions may have to do with starting clocks, etc but going with Loney over Anderson/Duncan would not fall into this category. And Gimenez has had a better spring than Lobaton , but he's not a particularly strong defensive catcher. I think most of their decisions have been defensible on baseball grounds, but I agree with the concerns about Wright and hope they have the good sense to cut him quickly if he isn't effective?

      Anyone else a tad nervous the Hellickson has been so "meh" this spring?

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    • Bill says:

      Totally agree on Lobo vs. Gimmy. Not so much on RH vs. Giraffe. Yeah, their raw numbers make it look like Jeff should start. But this isn't the same situation as the catching one. Jeff isn't going down to the farm. I think he has more potential in the pen, AND, there may actually be something to the velocity issues we keep hearing about. Rays will never say anything like that. But if there is a chance to get that velo back up in the pen, and later pull off another prospect pillaging trade, then that's a good thing.

      I realize this is only one hypothetical scenario.

      But simply put, as Rays fans its tough to know when to trust management's judgement and when to be frustrated. Let's focus on common ground - Gimmy should be backing up the human slug. I don't care about defensive potential. Gimmy makes up for any lack there with hustle and with a stick... something that Jose No Baton will never have, IMO.

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    • TOM says:

      Couldn't have said it better. Plus don't forget the four guys that made the team that didn't even hit .200 in spring. (K Johnson, R Roberts, J Molina & last but not least the great S Rodriguez, wll in Maddon's eyes anyway.)

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  7. Don says:

    NO SURPRISES; Rays are very predicitable: This decision has NOTHING to do with" Player Ability"...and has everything to do with "saving face" for Friedman..He is going to pay $5mil (including incentives)and Then send noname to the bull pen..No WAY...you want him to look like a fool?
    Heres how it plays out Noname (is that a felony?) fails.. the whole spring training Performances get swept under the rug by Maddon &Media..again saving Friedman....IF anyone ever Calls Maddon a "Players Manager" is blind to reality..he is a cheap TOOL for management, and he plays the Good guy role to perfection except to those few of you who know better(me)

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  8. Craig says:

    Here come all the negative people coming out although I do agree with you on Gimenez. Loney is A proven major-league hitter and very good first baseman ,Escobar when his head is right will put up off offense of numbers that the rays shortstop position has not seen not including Zobrist a lot to be positive for something's right now.

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    • Bill says:

      This is one of those things where if he has an average or better first half, we don't hear another word. But if he tanks, we hear from the nay sayers how they were such prophets. They nay say on everything, and remind us only when they were right.

      Meanwhile, maybe I'm playing the same game a little, but I've been a proponent of Jeff in the pen for some time. He was dominant there for a couple of weeks in late 2010. He has been very fragile as a starter, despite the brilliance when he is on. If RH can do a decent job and stay healthy, AND we get another dominant guy in the pen, I fail to see what's bad about that.

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      • Alex says:

        Problem with Niemann is that he takes a while to get warm and his control is always spotty early on. I see him taking on the long relief role, more so than Davis, where Davis was supposed to do that but evolved into a late inning guy.

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        • Bill says:

          While I agree with this in general, I believe your thinking may be in just the sort of box that Rays' mgt works hard to think out of. There is no rule that Neimann can't make that shift. And when you use terms like "always" to describe his early control you're in a box for sure. Again, the 2010 pen experiment went well. And I can distinctly recall more than one start where his control was there early on and he had single digit pitch count through 2, teens through 3. Not saying this is definitely the Rays' thoughts or even highly likely that it is. But it is just enough in between crazy and sane enough that I wouldn't be surprise to see them give him a real go in the pen.

          Regardless, I think the pen move is to get him time to get the velo up and increase his trade value as a starter. It is not long term for sure.

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  9. Bill says:

    I'm trying to figure out exactly what face saving Friedman has to do. The guy is respected around the league as one of, if not THE, best GMs around. He can go anywhere there is an opening and has stayed. He continuously builds winning teams with little money, and Donny Doom thinks he has to "save face". The fact that the Rays had a decision like this to make is to his credit. Anyone who sees it otherwise, please, please explain it with some logic and reasoning. I have enough emotion of my own, thanks.

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    • Alex says:

      The rays don't do things to save face. They are always trying to maximize value out of any assets they have. Pure and simple. They know Hernandez has succeeded in the past and they have reason to believe they can fix him. Niemann is too injury prone and the rays simply want to keep him healthy.

      I can actually understand this move. If they can get 150-180 innings out of Hernandez and a 3.5-4 era they will take it. There is reason to believe he will actually succeed behind our defense. They may even be able to trade him or Niemann if Archer forces his way up to the team

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  10. KT says:

    Niemann's coming off a shoulder injury. His velocity is down. Rays need someone who can eat innings. Obviously they're concerned that Niemann can't go deep into games and/or stay healthy coming off said injury. Best move is to let him build strength in his shoulder (remember shoulders take a longer time to get back to full form). If he proves he's healthy from the pen, he'll have a shot to get back into the rotation or be traded if a good deal comes along.

    Stop panicking everyone. Look at the facts. Save face, my ass

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    • Ken says:

      I agree KT, no time to panic. If Longo, Flash, Zorilla, Yunel, Loney and Joyce all perform to their 162 game average we have the basis of a competitive offense. Agreed, not as good as Toronto's but we should score. Throw in a solid year from Kelly J. and a hot minor leaguer not named Myers and we'll be in the thick of it. Hickey will sort out the pitching issues. My biggest concern is health, health, health. Another season like last year and we'll tank quickly. Go Rays.

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      • Bill says:

        Good thing you didn't mention Scott. Already going on DL with muscle issues. Not panicked about it because I wasn't crazy about re-signing him. But it's frustrating. Is there a muscle this guy hasn't strained? And yet he is the one giving fitness advice to young guys.

        If they bring up Chris G. there's your minor leaguer not names Myers who is due for a breakout year. He just needs his real chance. Scott's muscle issue may provide that.

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  11. Don says:

    Who took Scott in least games played in 2013 Poll...your winning....
    Glad we got rid of J. Damon....260ba and 15 hrs and resigned 0 for 42,and play 80 games maybe....another good job from AF?

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    • Rob says:

      I agree Scott is frustrating as hell, but what is your fascination with Damon? He batted .222 w/4 HRs last year. He's not even on a team this year.

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  12. Dave L says:

    Why all the hand wringing over RhFc being in the starting rotation to open the season? Its just the opening day roster. He isnt pencilled in for 32 starts.

    Who knows maybe The Rays just like how he matches up against the O's nothing more nothing less. Then the younger arms get the Chisox.

    The opening day roster for the rays is just a snapshot. No more. Relevant than the June 16 roster. Go back and check the past april 1 rosters if you debate this point.

    The real indicator is the 40 MAN ROSTER. Neimann is on it.

    Injuries are coming. Just relax the teeth gnashing.

    The Archer ssituation is as plain as the humidity in St Pete. We are delaying his clock to cover the post Price era soon to come.

    I expect the Fausto signing has a 50% chance to be a master stroke, 25% fail and 25% a wash. The risk was minimal. And we get to delay the young arms clocks from starting.

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    • Don says:

      The RISK was $5mil. that could have been used on a hitter in fact add scotts $5mil and you have a real hitter (DH) and Niemann& archer to do what Noname probably won't..the pitching..Doesn't take a genius...

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      • Tom says:

        RH's contract is for $3.25 million and Scott's is for $2.75 million, not $5 million each. This, of course, does not invalidate your main point. It does, however, lower the opportunity cost of signing Hernandez and Scott.

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        • Don says:

          With noname starting(how long?) assuming he makes incentives... unless its for selling hot dogs... he makes $5mil, Scott got $1mil for no opton year (what were they thinking then)+2.75mil?...So we got to sign a hitter for about $8mil...let me think..anyone for $8mil Better than DL Scott?

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          • Tom says:

            Hernandez has a 1.25m incentive based on innings pitched and a .6M incentive based on relief appearances. I do not know what he needs to reach to get these incentives but it is hard to believe he will get both. If he does reach these incentives he most likely had a very good year.

            Scott's buy out is a sunk cost, they would have had to pay that money even if they did not resign him.

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      • TOM says:

        Don't forget the White Sox signed Keppinger for about 4 mil.

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  13. Dave L says:

    Not many posters here would have the ability to claim that a player reaching mutiple incentives was a mistake and still have credibility.

    Most know that when a player reaches all the incentives laid out for him, he has done all that the club asked from him. Fans of that team know that is a good thing. Those who don't understand that elementary fact simply don't understand baseball.

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