The Tampa Bay Rays have employed a competition for the fifth starter spot. The candidates are free agent acquisition Erik Bedard, holdover Cesar Ramos along with prospects Jake Odorizzi and Nate Karns. The Rays should go with Odorizzi or Karns as Ramos is too valuable as a long man out of the bullpen. Ramos is the only one of the four who has experience coming out of the pen for an entire season. Odorizzi and Karns also have the most upside here and could be more than just a No. 5 starter in a rotation.
Ramos is more than just a long man for the Rays. The 33-year-old can come work the eighth inning with Heath Bell in 2014 and has been able to handle any relief role Joe Maddon has given him the past three years in Tampa. Ramos is a very valuable weapon in the bullpen, and there is no evidence he can be a starting pitcher in a very difficult American League East.
There aren’t very many relievers who are relied upon to give their team multiple, meaningful innings in one appearance.
Odorizzi is another top prospect the Rays got in the James Shields trade. He has a ton of upside and should be the favorite to win the Rays fifth starter job. He could develop into a solid member of the Rays’ rotation. He looks ready to pitch every fifth day in Tampa’s rotation and doesn’t appear to need any more minor league reps.
Karns is also a guy that should get consideration for the gig. Tampa got him from the Nationals this offseason in a deal for Jose Lobaton, and Maddon has been impressed with the young right-hander. He’s a very confident young man,” Maddon said to reporters Wednesday. “He knows he’s good, and I kind of like that. He’s competing for a job, and he made no bones about that in the beginning. He’s interesting, and a lot of it has to do with his self-confidence.”
The Rays believe Karns flashed the ability to be a durable mid rotation starter last year in the lower minors, going 11-4, 2.17 at two Class A stops in 2012 and 10-6, 3.26 at Double-A Harrisburg in 2013 before making three starts with the Nationals.
It just makes a lot more sense for the Rays to put a young kid in the rotation and keep Ramos where he has had all of his success in the big leagues — the bullpen.