USATSI_8469786_154511044_lowresEarlier this week, the Tampa Bay Rays made some moves that appeared to be setting up Chris Archer to pitch on Opening Day. The moves seemed odd because it will require the team to alter the pitching schedule of their three top starting pitchers just days before the season starts just to give Archer the honor of pitching on Opening Day.

The New York Yankees are facing a similar situation where their pitchers are now on pace to have Masahiro Tanaka pitching on Opening Day, which would end CC Sabathia’s streak of six straight Opening Day starts.

Yankees manager Joe Girardi was asked during Tuesday night’s game if he planned to shuffle his pitchers to get Sabathia the Opening Day starts. While Girardi stopped short of saying he would not, he strongly hinted at it and explained why he thinks it is a bad idea.

“We want to make sure [our starting pitchers] are physically ready to go,” Girardi said. “We’ve looked at schedules, which schedules are most advantageous for certain guys … I stress it all the time, being the No. 1 starter in the playoffs really means something. It means you were the ace for the season probably for the most part. But being the No. 1 starter during the course of the season, I don’t think somebody is going to look back on their career and say ‘I had the Opening Day start nine times in my career.’ Because the most important starter is the guy throwing that day. Maybe I don’t understand starting pitching and being an Opening Day starter, but I think these guys care more about where we are October 1 than they do Opening Day.”

In other words, just as I said earlier this week, game 1 and game 2 count the same in the standings and there are other things that are far more important.

When he was pressed about the “ceremony” of giving Sabathia his seventh straight Opening Day start, Girardi again stressed that one game is not nearly as important as preparing for the entire season.

“I gotta make sure our guys are ready and they are where they are supposed to be,” Girardi added. “Because I don’t want to rush a guy and find that he gets hurt just because we wanted somebody to make an Opening Day start.”

Bingo.

And the Rays aren’t messing with the schedule of one pitcher or even two pitchers. They are going to alter the schedule of three starting pitchers just to give Archer his headline.

Maybe nothing bad happens. Maybe appeasing Archer’s desire is what is important to the Rays. But it is just one game and nobody is going to care in October.

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15 Comments

  1. Chris D says:

    Nobody is going to care in October in part because this Rays team is not making the playoffs anyway.

    But, really if you can't see the psychological benefit of giving the perceived confidence boost to your young ace, then I guess you'll always argue this from the other side. To me though, this is the right move for this team with these players.

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  2. brianknowsbest says:

    Keep in mind that sabathia is terrible. And you are going to move your rotation so someone terrible can start.

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  3. Geoff Peterson says:

    Because Girardi is the final word on all things pitching right? Give me a break. If the Rays had half a billion dollars in hitters, it might be different. For the Rays, the alignment of the rotation is key. We must have our best against the others best because as the rotation goes deeper, the Rays tend to have the advantage especially when healthy. If this had been adjusted a few days before opening day, there might be a case, but a few weeks in advance. No one is going to burn out in April and the Cavalry is coming when Cobb gets back.

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    • Cork Gaines says:

      That lining up against the other team's starting pitchers doesn't exist, or at the very least, it doesn't last very long. Teams have different off-days and different theories on how to handle them. In David Price's second start last year he faced the Rangers' 5th starter.

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      • Gus says:

        With rain and snow postponements and all kinds of off days, everybody's April rotation gets messed with. The idea is to win the games, starting with Game 1. If Archer is the guy (and he clearly is among the remaining guys), then you start him. If the Rays get some rainouts, then they should keep pitching Archer every 5th day and juggle the back end. Especially with a new regime.

        Giardi is doing damage control with his high priced veteran.

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    • Dave L says:

      The Rays have always jiggered their rotation to match up depending on the opponent firstly and the opposing SP to a lesser degree.

      I broke down the Rays pitching matchups late in the year a few years ago and they made sure Price and Shields (almost always) faced our 2 main division rivals at the time and the Rangers. On the other hand the call ups were usually brought in to face NL teams or bottom feeding AL Teams. That was during a time of relative Rays SP healthiness.

      We open against Baltimore, they are a division rival in 2015. They dont really have an ace thier top 3 or 4 SP are about the same. With Davis and Schoop the only lefty threats 3 RHP will be fine and as long as 2 are Archer and Odorizzi thats the best we can do. The 'B' team will face the Marlins.

      Do we have a healthy southpaw starter at this time anyway? We usually had 2 which was a big advantage.

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  4. Mr. Smith 1980 says:

    Tanaka is a better pitcher than CC right now, so Girardi is just using the "I don't wanna shuffle it just for the sake of shuffling it" line so that CC doesn't get upset.

    You can keep beating the "opening day starter doesn't matter" drum for the rest of training, but the pomp and circumstance that surround opening day are undeniable.
    Having an emotional pitcher, who happens to be the best pitcher available, make an emotional start is the smart move. Much smarter than putting a middle of the rotation guy out there with saucer-sized eyes and butterflies, and who feels like he's gonna puke all over the mound just because 3 weeks before the season he was on schedule to pitch that day.

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  5. RaysBoson says:

    Why is everyone talking about Rays pitching ? Does anyone doubt they will find ways to make young starters successful ? Does anyone question their ability to put together a top notch bullpen ? No reason to question either of those things.

    Why they will fail is the same old weakness. They are 30th in Spring Training for both Avg and OBP and 29th in runs. Yet no one is mentioning this. Longo was hitting for a few games. He has dropped .120 points or so in the last few games. Heck, even a significant chuck the runs we have scored seemed to come at the end of games from players who won't make the lineup. Jennings is the only one who looks like he made some adjustments in the off season.

    Shelton School of Hitting, we make it easy as 1-2-3. The lack of plate IQ is still alarming. The other day the opposing pitcher had thrown 9 straight balls, the 9th of which was a wild pitch. The Rays hitter swung and missed at the next three pitches. Why are we swinging at that point ? After 9 straight, most intelligent hitters are thinking about taking 2. We strand runners on second and third with no outs. Sound familiar ? Long season ahead.

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    • Dave L says:

      Well its because we accept that we are offensively challenged and so are relying on pitching to carry us. We expected not to hit, so thats a dog bites man non story.

      If they got rid of the hitting coach we might have to finally accept that our low budget FA and castaways from other clubs just plain cant hit for average or power.

      Each new season we cast our hopes and dreams and aspirations with the latest crop of misfits and then are shocked! when they dont blossom.

      The latest group of new ideclining SS with one good offensive year many years ago, catcher with one good Bat year finally on the other side of 29 last year and OF who finally tore up AA and AAA at a late age and hope its will translate to MLB.

      If it fails it not surprising. Im not rooting for it to, but its a crapshoot.

      Thats what you get on a shoestring budget.

      So we are focusing on pitching because that was where realistic hope resided

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      • Gus says:

        And that is an upgrade on the offense assembled last year!

        It is chicken and egg, but I'm of the view it is not Shelton's fault. Who gets better after leaving?

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        • RaysBoson says:

          It's not Shelton's fault. But he's not helping. If we aren't built for offense, then we need someone who can squeeze every bit offense possible out of what we do have. It isn't him. And it's not about who gets better after leaving. I'm talking about overall team offense and approach, not individuals. Maybe there's no one out there who can do better. But the Rays owed it to themselves and their fans to find out by now. Keep watching closely for these things:
          Checked swings on first pitch or on 2-0 and 3-1 counts
          Swinging at first pitch after a walk, and often GDP
          Inability to bunt a man home or push them over because you're fouling off two bunt attempts (trying to hard to get yourself safe vs. sac)
          And the list goes on.

          The Rays have been rife with these behaviors for years. I think Cort even did a post about the checked swings a couple of years ago, indicating it meant no strategy and/or poor pitch recognition. Lineups change, old and young players come and go. But these behaviors persist at what seems like above average frequency. I'm talking about lack of plate IQ and/or discpline. There are plenty of teams not spending hundreds of millions on sluggers, yet producing more offense.

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          • Gus says:

            I generally agree with you that Shelton doesn't seem to be helping much, but also question if it isn't the org philosophies which are really causing trouble -- drafting only nhigh school hitters, the whole "take and rake" approach from 2011-12 where were always hitting behind in the count and frankly the disregard of offense from the catcher (before Molina, there was Shoppach with the highest swing and miss percentage in MLB by a wide margin). But we need a Hickey for the offense to be sure, and Shelton's offenses at some point must be a reflection of the Speed Hitter himself. But offense is down everywhere in MLB, so not sure where that person is coming from, but if we are dead last in offense in June, then a change there is probably coming. Cash inherited him. No loyalty there. I'm sure he has someone in mind if the offense stagnates.

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          • RaysBoson says:

            Sorry, Cork. Have a friend named Cort and typed that out of muscle memory.

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        • Dave L says:

          Exactly.

          On this Gus we agree 100%

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      • RaysBoson says:

        Still have to score some runs to win games no matter how good your pitching is.

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