In an on air interview this morning (linked below) with Mike Pepper and Justin Pawlowski, Rays pitching coach, Jim Hickey, quickly shot down the idea of a six man rotation. Tampa Bay has a copious amount of pitchers in spring training, 38 to be exact. Of them, you have seven pitchers (Shields, Price, Hellickson, Davis, Niemann, Moore, and Cobb) vying for one of the five starting spots. That doesn’t include other big league ready pitchers like Alex Torres.
I firmly believe that Cobb and Torres will start the year in Durham when you consider that Alex Cobb is coming off of surgery. Consider too, even with a formal five man rotation, the Rays have really leaned on seven starters the last couple of seasons, especially when one, or two, of the big five get tired or injured. That is to say, Tampa Bay will need some big league arms ready in the event of exhaustion or injuries. I’d think that both Cobb and Torres would fill those roles, slowly allowing them to get better acclimated to the bigs.
However, that leaves six starters fighting for the coveted starting spots in the rotation. With Price, Shields, and Hellickson all but locked in to the starting rotation, it’s evident that someone is going to have to make the move to the pen. Odds are good that Davis will be that someone. And he’s none too happy about the prospects of making that transition.
“I’m a starter,” he said. “I don’t see any reason for me to be in the bullpen. I understand they’ve got to do certain things, but we’ll see. … I definitely want to be a starter and stay a starter forever. And that’ll be my mentality.”
Unfortunately for Wade, with a newly minted contract, the odds are good that Moore won’t be playing the part of a reliever any time soon. And let’s just face reality here, if performance in the pen is any indication (mind you Davis was relegated to the pen in the 2011 post season, and Niemann was there toward too toward the end of the 2010 season) of things, Davis is a much more effective in the reliever spot than Niemann who, well…flat out sucks in the pen. Blame it on the fact that it takes Jeff’s big body more time to go from 0-60, while Davis seemed much more capable to come off of the bench and make an impact. And besides Josh Lueke, who can go anywhere from one to three innings, the Rays really don’t have a long reliever.
Comparatively speaking, Davis posted a 4.45 ERA and 105/63 K/BB ratio over 184 innings last season, where as Niemann posted a 4.06 ERA and 105/37 K/BB ratio across 135 1/3 innings. Niemann started last season strongly, yet his performance diminished toward the middle of the year because of injuries. Conversely, Davis was, arguably, the weakest link in the starting rotation at the beginning of last season, yet really picked things up toward the middle and end. It could be assumed that had Niemann seen as many innings as Davis, his numbers would be lower. Nevertheless, when pitting the two together strictly by the stats, Niemann seems to be better than Davis in starting role.
Fortunately there is an upside for Davis, if he’s willing to grin and bear it for a little while. Assuming Niemann performs up to par this season, one could imagine that his equity would rise, and he’d be trade fodder again at some point; be that in July, September, or the off-season. Too, I’d imagine that this is probably the last season in a Rays uniform for James Shields. There are two spots right off the, proverbial, bat. Then again, Davis will be looking over his shoulder again in 2013 in an attempt to fend off, presumably, Cobb and Torres.
Click this here link to hear the interview with Jim Hickey: Hickey: No 6-Man Rotation For Rays « CBS Tampa.