Rays relief pitcher joins baseball history as a starter

Sports
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(WFLA)- Tampa Bay Rays pitcher, Ryne Stanek, has not only carved himself an important role in the Rays bullpen. His relief pitching duties have landed him atop a list of Major League Baseball pitching, as a starter. Stanek is in the midst of an ongoing baseball record, most consecutive starts without allowing a run. Nine starts and counting. That’s three more than Zack Greinke, Orel Hershiser and Don Drysdale. Four games better than Bob Gibson’s run, 50 years ago. 

The catch? Half a decade from now, the record books will not describe the bizarre circumstances behind Stanek’s historic performance. The 2018 Rays will go down as the “bullpen day” staff, a starting rotation thrown together by necessity. Injuries in the spring and during the season have forced manager, Kevin Cash, to be creative with his pitching. At times this season, the Rays have only had two regular starting pitchers available. The strategy has raised eyebrows, drawn criticism and has helped the Rays turn their season around. Since June 22nd, the Rays are 13-4, with five shutout victories. And it is the bullpen that has started most of those games. 

The idea actually came up before 2018 but was forced into action in the opening series of this season. Have a relief pitcher begin a game, work through the top of the opponent’s lineup, then hand the ball to the next guy. It has helped pitchers, like Ryan Yarbrough, enter games with an advantage, pitching longer in appearances. Then there are nights like Tuesday, with five Rays bullpen pitchers teaming up for a five-hit, 5-2 victory over the Detroit Tigers. The pitcher that has developed as the top bullpen “starter”? Stanek.

Stanek worked two scoreless innings, allowing just one hit. Nothing beyond normal, for a relief pitcher’s workload. Only, these two innings became a ninth consecutive scoreless start. Hence, the record.

Take nothing away from Stanek’s effectiveness. His innings pitched during the nine games? 13.1. Greinke went 43.2 innings during his six-game streak, then 37 more in a five-game stretch. Hershiser’s streak of 55 consecutive scoreless innings may never be broken. It is one more inning than his fellow Los Angeles Dodgers legend, Drysdale. Ryne Stanek now looks down at all of them, when it comes to consecutive scoreless starts.

“He’s taking to that role,” Cash said after Tuesday’s victory. “He enjoys going up there knowing that he has the ball for an inning or two and he’s making the most of it when he attacks and pounds the strike zone.”

Attacking hitters and baseball records at the same time.

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