Joe 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…
- David Price
- Jeremy Hellickson
- Roberto Hernandez
- Matt Moore
- 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.