Predicting the Tampa Bay Rays’ 2014 Starting Rotation

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Predicting the 2014 Starting Rotation for the Tampa Bay Rays

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One of the things you can seem to always rely on is strong pitching from the Tampa Bay Rays. It seems like they are in control of the best young arms in the business, and when one moves on from the organization another steps in. It is a nice problem to have if you are Joe Maddon. Not much is different with the 2014 edition of the Rays starting rotation.

It seemed as though the rotation was set moving forward to spring training. That was until Jeremy Hellickson, who struggled at the end of last season, underwent arthroscopic surgery in his right elbow earlier this winter, sidelining him for the first 6-8 weeks of the season. Prior to the surgery, Hellickson was penciled in as the No. 4 starter.

What is a team that has as much pitching depth as the Rays to do? That's easy. Call up your organization's top pitcher and let him fill in.

The small market Rays are playing in a very tough American League East. Every single team within that division has gotten stronger, whether it is due to free agency or players in that organization getting healthy. On paper it seems as though the Boston Red Sox and the New York Yankees will be battling it out for the top spot, which leaves the Baltimore Orioles, Toronto Blue Jays and Rays to battle it out for a Wild Card spot. Luckily the games aren't played on paper and anything can happen during the course of a long MLB season.

The Rays have the talent and the right guy managing to make some noise within the AL East and all of baseball. If everyone stays healthy and players who struggled last season get back to form, we could be seeing the Rays battling it out for supremacy in the American League.

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1. David Price, LHP

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As if there was any doubt as to who the No. 1 starter was on this team. This could very well be his last season in Tampa, but David Price will take the ball on opening day and run with it. The tall lefty has been in trade rumors the last couple of seasons due to the Rays' financial constraints which makes a move to a different team highly likely. But for now Price will continue to dominate the way he always has. The question is will he be able to be David Price who was a 20-game winner back in 2012?

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2. Alex Cobb, RHP

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In the second spot in the rotation, the Tampa Bay Rays will turn to right-handed pitcher Alex Cobb. Cobb made 22 starts for the Rays last year and was brilliant. With a record of 11-3 and an ERA of 2.76, he was able to secure his spot in the top half of the Rays' rotation. This will be the first time that Cobb will be looked to to make 30 starts. His career high came in 2012 when he made 23 starts. Cobb has an average fastball but has a few other pitches in his repertoire that he can turn to to be successful.

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3. Matt Moore, LHP

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It must be nice to have an All-Star pitcher who is only 24-years-old as a No. 3 starter. That is exactly what the Rays have with Matt Moore. Moore, who had to be handled delicately down the stretch due to elbow soreness, won 17 games last year for the Rays which led the team. He also finished just eight strikeouts behind David Price for the team lead. The health of Moore's elbow has to be a concern for the team, but if he is able to stay healthy and make all of his starts, there is no reason he wouldn't be able to repeat his performance of last year or possibly even reach the coveted 20-wins. Moore is above average with most of his pitches and can hit in the mid 90s on the radar gun with his fastball.

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4. Chris Archer, RHP

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In a deal that sent Matt Garza to the Cubs, the Rays were able to acquire this season's No. 4 starter, Chris Archer. This is where the Rays' rotation has a few questions due to the injury of Jeremy Hellickson. In a perfect world where every one is healthy and no pitcher ever has to deal with arm soreness or surgery, Archer would be the fifth starter. That isn't the case at this point in time. Archer is looked to to take the ball every fifth day just like his comrades and go into battle. He has a very live fastball but struggles at times to find his other pitches. Archer made 23 starts for the Rays last year posting a 9-7 record. It wouldn't be out of the question to say that Archer could win 12 games this year depending.

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5. Jake Odorizzi, RHP

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Rounding out the 2014 starting rotation for the Tampa Bay Rays is top pitching prospect Jake Odorizzi. Odorizzi was acquired in the Wade Davis/James Shields trade to Kansas City which also netted the Rays 2013 American League rookie of the year Wil Myers. This may be a little early for Odorizzi to take the fifth spot, but with Jeremy Hellickson out for the first two months of 2014 the Rays will have to turn to him. Look for Odorizzi to be returned to Durham of the International League for a bit more seasoning before making the jump full time in Tampa.

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