In 2013, Kansas City Royals management took a “win now” approach to their season. They unloaded highly regarded prospects, eventual 2013 AL ROY outfielder Wil Myers and SP Jake Odorizzi, as key components in a trade that saw them receive one of the more effective and durable starting pitchers of the last decade in James Shields.
Myers has shown flashes of brilliance for the Tampa Bay Rays but does not benefit from playing home games in a pitchers’ ball park. He also strikes out at a higher than normal rate, with a career K/BB rate of 2.83 (the MLB average since the start of the 2013 season is currently 2.51).
Odorizzi, however, bounced back and forth between the Rays and their Triple-A affiliate for a good portion of 2013. Until two starts ago, he has also had a largely forgettable start to 2014, posting an ERA of 6.83 through his first six outings. But Rays manager Joe Maddon is one of the more astute skippers in the game, and he has not lost faith or patience in Odorizzi — and for good reason.
Last week he hurled five scoreless innings while striking out 11. This week, Odorizzi continued his scoreless innings streak against a surging Seattle Mariners team as a visitor to Safeco Field. He had a no-hitter going through 6.2 innings before giving up a base hit. He got out of the frame, going an even seven innings while allowing only the one hit and walking two. He struck out seven and appears to have found his stride in May as he now has spun 11 consecutive innings of shutout baseball for his club, picking up a win in his latest.
Odorizzi is still only 24 years old, so there will be some growing pains, but he seems to be earning his keep for now and further instilling confidence in Maddon. While Shields would be considered an ace on many MLB pitching staffs, the move the Rays made looks to be a better long-term benefit. Myers has 30 home run potential and Odorizzi could develop into a very serviceable No. 2 or 3 starter in their rotation behind Alex Cobb, should David Price depart amidst or after the 2014 season as rumored.
Odorizzi has lowered his ERA almost two full points with his last two appearances, and if he can work successfully through a high-powered Oakland Athletics offense during his next scheduled start May 20, Rays fans can continue to enjoy his performances moving forward for the month.