On Sunday afternoon, Tampa Bay Rays manager Kevin Cash released the team’s primary lineup against right-handed pitching for the upcoming season.
Seen below, the lineup boasts 2B Logan Forsythe as the leadoff hitter, offering the infielder stability as an everyday player.
In an interview with Marc Topkin (Tampa Bay Times), Cash noted the reasons for batting Forsythe first.
It was tough because Logan had so much success last year hitting in the five-hole and then fourth against some lefties. But we like the way Logan has approached it. And I guess the biggest reason is it allows one of our best hitters to get 75 more at-bats on the year. …So we want him up there as much as possible. And this is the best way to do it.
Logan Morrison, a middle of the order tandem of Evan Longoria-Corey Dickerson-Desmond Jennings, then Brad Miller, Steven Souza Jr., Kevin Kiermaier and the catcher ― in this case Curt Casali ― follows. Against left-handed pitching, the lineup looks different with Brandon Guyer second and Steve Pearce fourth, and Tim Beckham playing for Miller on some occasions.
Cash also described the lineup as dynamic with more thump, saying,
We’ve got more thump this year at the top, and then we’ve got some speed looking toward the back end of the lineup.
Topkin spoke to the Cash’s philosophy when assembling the batting order which maximizes the speed of the Kiermaier and the three players who bat before The Outlaw:
…Part of the thinking in keeping Kiermaier eighth is to try to maximize his speed and ability to make things happen, batting with fast runners ahead of him and to serve as a de facto second leadoff hitter with run-producing hitters behind him.
And while Forsythe has some trepidation hitting in the leadoff spot, citing the feeling of being “rushed” at home, he feels that being confident in his aggressive approach will pay dividends.
There’s not a whole lot of time wasted for that first at-bat. But after that first one, the game kind of plays like it plays. …I can very well see myself as a leadoff guy going deep into counts and seeing pitches and stuff like that. That will run through your mind. It hasn’t in the games yet, and I think we’re past that. I just need to not think about being too passive by being confident in my approach, and it’s going to be successful.
Rays primary lineup against right-handed pitching
― Cash also set the pitching rotation with Chris Archer first, followed Drew Smyly, Jake Odorizzi, Matt Moore and Erasmo Ramirez. That, however, is rather unsurprising. What did raise eyebrows though is news that the Rays will seek more out of their starters.
That’s kind of the thought, Cash said. We know we’re going to have to have some guys step up in the pen. It’s a little bit of a reversal from last year. We were asking the pen to step up for some young starting pitchers. This year we’re more mature in the rotation and maybe a little bit more unknown — but we like the guys — in the pen. Especially the way it’s kind of shaking out right now.
Jake Odorizzi, who was unhappy last season about not getting to stay in games longer, is a fan of the updated plan.
It’d be great to go seven. Everyone puts more emphasis on six innings nowadays. But six innings leaves you a lot of room in the back end of the bullpen for — I think we saw how it played out last year, only going five and six. Six sounds good, but you really need seven.
― In the words of Topkin… Even in Havana, principal owner Stuart Sternberg found a way to poke the rival Red Sox. “I’ve been told it’s a third-world country here, and the stadium, they’ve done the best with it, but the clubhouse is still in better shape than the visitors’ clubhouse at Fenway.”