The Tampa Bay Ray began the season with what looked like five starting pitchers for the first time in the Kevin Cash era.
We were all hoping that bullpen games would be a thing of the past and we would see the same guy take the mound every fifth day.
With a shortened spring training, and some pitchers not being able to build up their pitch counts, it wasn’t a shock when a couple of Ray’s starting pitchers went down with injuries.
Luis Pitino suffered an oblique strain and was placed on the 60-day DL. Patino just recently began playing catch, but he is not expected back before the end of June.
Rookie Shane Baz who was expected to be a big part of the Rays rotation suffered an elbow injury and is not expected back till mid-June.
So here we are again as the Rays have reverted to having a bullpen game, where relief pitchers pitch the entire game or an opener where a relief pitcher starts a game.
Thursday afternoon was of those games as Jeffrey Springs started for the Rays and allowed the only run that the Mariners could score in 2-2/3 inning of work.
Then it was Jason Adam, Jalen Beeks, JP Feyereisen, Colin Poche, and finally Ryan Thompson to shut down the Mariner’s offense.
If it seems like the Rays have played many one-run games this season, you’re right. The Rays lead the majors in one-run games this season, going 6-3 in those games.
The Rays are third in the American League in pitching with a 3.09 ERA, trailing Seattle and the New York Yankees.
With the Minnesota Twins in town this weekend, the Rays will roll out two starters in the series’ first two games. Corey Kluber goes on Friday night, and Shane McClanahan will get the start on Saturday.
It will be back to the bullpen on Sunday afternoon as Josh Fleming will get the start.
On Friday night, Ray’s pitching was outstanding as Corey Kluber threw six innings of one-run ball while striking out six. Javy Guerra and Phoenix Sanders finished the night off for the Rays.
Surprisingly, the offense is not doing all that bad. Sure Brandon Lowe is in a 5-for-43 slump, but that won’t last all season. This is a guy that 38 home runs last season.
After his hot start, Wander Franco has returned to earth and is 5-for-28 since the Rays returned from their road trip to Chicago.
Franco is my pick to win the AL MVP this season, and he will get hot again at some point this season. Franco leads the Rays in hitting with a .316 average with four homers and 13 runs batted in.
Ji-Man Choi and Manuel Margot have also been significant contributors to the offense this season. Overall the Rays are fourth in the American League with a .246 average trailing New York, Cleveland, and the Los Angeles Angels.
After this weekend’s home series with Minnesota, the Rays will hit the road for their first extended road trip of the season with stops in Oakland, Seattle, and Los Angeles.