Rays have been willing to move pitchers

by Gary Shelton on May 16, 2017 · 1 comment

in general

Cab?  How long will Chris Archer stay?/STEVEN MUNCIE

Cab? How long will Chris Archer stay?/STEVEN MUNCIE

Tuesday, 4 a.m.

One eye is on the scoreboard.

One eye is on the flight departure board.

In some cities, the fans ask “who's next?” In this one, they ask “where's next?” Around here, pitchers don't come to stay. They stop by, throw a few innings, and head to the airport. And thanks for playing.

For the Rays, it's always been that way. They built a reputation on young guns who can win close shaves, and before the pitchers need to actually shave, they move on. And they move on as fans gnash their teeth.

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Alex Cobb ran into trouble in the seventh./STEVEN MUNCIE

Cobb hopes to climb on the Rays' all-time list./STEVEN MUNCIE

James Shields?  David Price? Matt Garza? The Rays have specialized in moving pitchers along while they still have live arms. Matt Moore? Scott Kazmir? Jeremy Hellickson? Gone.

Chris Archer? Alex Cobb? Jake Odorizzi? We'll see.

The thing is, most of the pitchers left as they seemed to be entering their prime years. Shields was 30. Price was 28. Moore and Hellickson were 27. Garza was 26. Kazmir was 25.

Except for Price, however, none of the pitchers have made the Rays long for them to come back.

Still, wouldn't you have had Tampa Bay hold onto, say, half of them?

Pitchers never seem to be Rays for long, do they? This was one reason it was discouraging to watch as Blake Snell pitched his way into the minor leagues last week. Before, sooner or later, he's headed out to the big money. It's just a matter of how many innings he throws before then.

Throughout their recent history, you can say two things for sure about the Rays' pitching. They've developed it, and they've traded it away, much of it at a remarkably tender age. It's hard to say they've erred; there haven't been nearly as many good seasons away as there were here. Still, you wonder what might have happened if the Rays had kept, say, half of their arms.

For instance:

How about David Price? He's the most decorated pitcher the Rays have ever had, winning one Cy Young and finishing second another year. In all, he won 82 games here, but he's won only 39 since he left at age 28. Price is rehabbing now, but you'd figure there is a slot for him in the rotation still … just so he plays at a discount.

Shields? Shields was such a battler he hung on with the Rays until he was 30. He won 87 times here, and only 47 since he left. Maybe he left because the franchise had no need for a pitcher nicknamed Big Game; they don't play any anymore.

Garza? Despite his temper, Garza threw the only no-hitter in franchise history. He won 34 times here. He's won 55 times away from the Rays, which makes him the most successful ex-Ray ever. But he won 15 games in his final season here; he never won more than 10 in a season afterward.

Kazmir? Kazmir's descent, and his reboot, were two of the most intriguing stories in baseball. Kaz was only 25 when he left, but he won 55 times here. He's won 53 games elsewhere. He had five double-digit winning seasons for the Rays; he's had two since he left.

Hellickson? Before there was Snell, Hellickson was the kid who did it all in the minors. He left the Rays at age 27. He won 40 games here, only 16 since he left. He had three double-digit winning seasons here, only once since he left.

Moore? Moore won 39 times here, as opposed to only eight since he left. Moore seemed to be headed for stardom with 17 wins in his third season. He left at age 27. The irony is that he's been much healthier than Matt Duffy, who he was traded for.

How about Edwin Jackson? Jackson wasn't a star, but he lasted 14 years in the bigs. He won 19 games here, but he won 74 elsewhere, including a no-hitter against the Rays.

You wonder what pitching coach Jim Hickey thinks of the assembly line. By the time he teaches a pitcher that a curve ball is "two," the guy's signing checks elsewhere. Around here, pitchers grip their fastball, their curveball and their carry-on luggage.

You should have been keeping these guys in mind when you watched Chris Archer pitch Monday night, or when you watch Alex Cobb throw tonight. After all, Archer is fourth on the Rays' list of wins; Cobb is tied for seventh. (Jake Odorizzi is 11th.)

After all, pitchers don't last long around here. They go, and they get paid. Usually, they aren't quite as successful.

Over the years, it's been remarkable that the Rays have developed so many of them.

Now, if they could just get another arm or two for the bullpen.

The Rays top 10 starting pitchers:

1. David Price

2. James Shields

3. Matt Garza

4. Scott Kazmir

5. Matt Moore

6. Chris Archer

7. Jeremy Hellickson

8. Alex Cobb

9. Jake Odorizzi

10. Edwin Jackson


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