It is said that pitching wins games and they Tampa Bay Rays have subscribed to that belief for some time. Starters are a team’s bread and butter, but the bullpen is just as important to their success. Reliever positions are fairly fluid every season for the Rays and spring training is the deciding factor for most. What will the pen look like in 2017? This is my prediction:
The closer will undoubtedly be Alex Colome. This is no surprise. Colome has been a strong and consistent pitcher that has definitely earned the title of closer. Due to his participation in the World Baseball Classic, he has had limited spring training play with the Rays. However, Colome has played an important role on the returning champion team Dominican Republic, including getting the save against team USA this past Saturday.
Brad Boxberger is another no brainer for the bullpen. Although he was a shadow of his 2015 self last season after coming back from an abdominal injury sustained during spring training, Boxberger’s history will get him a spot. Sadly this season is starting out like 2016, with an injury. Unlike last year, this is a lat injury that is not an abdominal and the Rays expect Boxberger to be ready for opening day.
Erasmo Ramirez is another familiar face that will be back in the pen. A hamstring injury has limited his outings this spring, he is the multi-inning reliever that every pens needs on days when a starter is struggling. Although Ramirez had aspirations of being the 5th starter, he will no doubt show his value filling this role.
Xavier Cedeno avoided arbitration this season and signed a 1 year $1.3 million dollar deal in January. Only 2 innings pitched this spring so far, but it’s hard to imagine him not being in the pen.
Last week the Rays claimed Jumbo Diaz off waivers from the Cincinnati Reds. Diaz has yet to play a game with his new team due to being in the pen for the Dominican Republic in the World Baseball Classic. He has been in the league since 2014 and 3.65 ERA over those years. Diaz will not be a game changer, but there is something to be said to being consistent.
The back of the pen is still anybody’s game, but these are my picks:
This is Ryan Garton’s second spring with the Rays and he is my pick for the 6th reliever. He has looked pretty good in this spring; pitched 5 innings and having a 3.60 ERA. Last season Garton was a middle reliever in 37 games and finished with an ERA of 4.35. Nothing earth shattering, but good enough to be back in 2017.
There are 3 young standouts thus far in the pen; Jamie Schultz, Hunter Wood, and Chih-Wei Hu. They are all very similar, Schultz, Wood, and Hu all have an ERA under 2.00, pitched 6 to 8 innings, and none of them have played in the majors. Even with the lack of experience in a majors, if these stats continue they would be hard to ignore. No doubt at least one will be at the Trop on opening day and I would bet the remaining that aren’t will make their debut in 2017.
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