ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (WFLA) – Welcome to the wild 2020 Major League Baseball season. A 60-game sprint for a postseason that will see 16 teams have a shot at winning the World Series.
No matter who you ask, the Tampa Bay Rays appear on the list of real contenders, despite a gauntlet schedule of American and National League East opponents. It is once again a talented roster sprinkled with specialists and rising stars. The reason for the hype, however? Pitching.
For two seasons, injuries and prospects lacking experience forced manager Kevin Cash to get creative. The “opener” concept eased the stress on a young staff. The idea caught on. Even the New York Yankees utilized an opener on an emergency basis.
In 2020, it’s about the “starter.” The Rays may finally have a five-man rotation that can not only start consistently but work deep into games.
The 2019 16-game winner and Cy Young Award finalist Charlie Morton lead a group that, in some cases, is still evolving. Morton will start on opening day against the Toronto Blue Jays. On Saturday, Ryan Yarbrough looks to continue his growth from an 11-game win season last year. Yarbrough was used often as the second man in after the opener in 2019. This time, he gets all the starts.
Cash was hesitant to name his third starter during the final week of summer camp because this is where the mystery of the Rays rotation begins. Blake Snell, presumably the next guy in line, has not built up the stamina he would like to have in a typical July. Snell’s progress during the spring was slowed by loose impediments in his pitching elbow. He said he felt good in his final camp appearance but could probably not make four to five innings at this point in the season.
Snell is not the only starter not at one hundred percent. Pitchers Tyler Glasnow and Yonny Chirinos both missed substantial camp time due to Coronavirus. Glasnow has better conditioning for the early part of the season but will also have his pitch count watched closely.
It may not be the ideal scenario for a starting five but the Rays rotation is one of the envies of baseball. Starting today against the Blue Jays, they hope to send a message that it will be a difficult day to score runs against a club with expectations to exceed last year’s run to the American League Divisional Series.
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