Can Rays trust their rotation in playoffs?

by Gary Shelton on October 6, 2021

in general

Kevin Cash has reinvented his pitching staff./TIM WIRT

Wednesday, 4 a.m.

Right about now, the Tampa Bay Rays could use a monster. Any volunteers?

You know the type. A grizzled pitcher walks to the mound, and behind him, the scoreboard leans in his team's direction. His arm has lightning bolts in it, and with the ball in his hands, the odds of a team winning go up significantly. He is so good that you would swear he could strike out a hitter with two pitches.

Alas, the Rays no longer have one of those.

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Throughout the team history, of course, they've had a few. David Price. James Shields. For one season, Blake Snell. Charlie Morton. Matt Garza. Matt Moore.

This year? This year the Rays, as good as they have been, are a deck without aces. They go into the American League Division series on Thursday with a staff made up of two rookies, a transformed relief pitcher and a journeyman who nearly pitched his way out of the rotation before rallying.

Is that enough to go deep into the playoffs?

That's the biggest difference between this season and last. Last season, the Rays went into the playoffs with a former Cy Young winner in Blake Snell, a former third-place finisher in the Cy Young in Charlie Morton and phenom Tyler Glasnow.

Now? They have rookie Shane McClanahan, rookie Shane Baz, former reliever Drew Rasmussen and Michael Wacha, the only pitcher to make it through the season in the starting rotation.

No, it isn't all the Rays' fault. Glasnow was hurt. Morton left. Snell was traded.

And still, the Rays won 100 games this year.

The best thing that the Rays have done this year was re-invent the rotation. Going into this season, the Rays started Glasnow, Rich Hill, Ryan Yarbrough and Wacha. They had thoughts of Chris Archer joining them before he was injured.

What has followed has been a season of matchups, of going to bullpen early and often. That's likely to happen this year, too, especially with Luis Patino and Josh Fleming sent to the bullpen.

Oh, the Rays used some spot starting last year, too. Ryan Thompson got a post-season start. John Curtiss, too.

But is there one pitcher you can point to and say "Yep, the Rays have that game sewed up." Not yet. You have to like the future of McClanahan and Baz (and maybe Patino), but it's going to be a high-wire act for the Rays.

The Rays will turn to their kids, starting with McClanahan, against the Boston Red Sox on Thursday night at 8:07 p.m. at Tropicana Field.

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