Last week I asked the question "What Should The Rays Do With Alex Torres?" Torres, a left handed reliever, will come to spring training attempting to win a bullpen spot but the situation gets a little uncomfortable because Torres is out of options and if he doesn't make the team out of spring he would have to be either traded or exposed to waivers in order to keep him in their system. Many feel with his powerful left arm, 3 pitches, and ability to start or relieve that he wouldn't pass through waivers and the Rays would be better off stashing him in the pen.
The bullpen, although not crowed at the moment, does include Fernando Rodney, Joel Peralta, and Jake McGee. Recently signed Roberto Hernandez will come to spring training and compete for the 5th starter job but it would seem more than likely that he too will end up in the bullpen which will leave three open spots in the pen.
If the Rays plan on stashing Alex Torres in the pen that leaves just two spots. The remaining in-house candidates for the final two spots appear to be Cesar Ramos, Brandon Gomes, Josh Lueke, and Dane De La Rosa. If the Rays re-sign Kyle Farnsworth or another veteran reliever, which has been their method of operation the last several years, that would leave just two spots in the bullpen.
Cesar Ramos likely has a leg up on one of the final two spots as he also is out of options and at the end of spring training the Rays will be faced with the same decision on him as they will be with Alex Torres but unlike Torres Ramos has a considerable amount more major league action.
Since being acquired from the San Diego Padres (along with Adam Russell, Brandon Gomes,and Cole Figueroa ) in exchange for Jason Bartlett and he has made 76 appearances and has posted a record of 1-1 with a 3.18 ERA. He has a strike out rate of 7.3 K/9 and a walk rate of 4.3 BB/9.
A reliever who can't find home plate is going to find it hard to stick in the major leagues and control issues is what plagued him during the 2011 season. In 2011 he appeared in 59 games with the Rays and had an ERA of 3.93 (19ER/43.2IP) but had a walk rate of 5.2 BB/9 and a strike out rate of 6.4 K/9.
He spent the 2012 season on the shuttle from Durham to Tampa and both at Durham and with the Rays he showed much better command of the strike zone. While at Durham he limited his walk rate to 2.3 BB/9 and a strikeout rate of 6.7 K/9. While with the Rays he appeared in 17 games and posted a 2.10 ERA (7ER/30IP) and had a strike out rate of 8.7 K/9 and a much improved walk rate of 3.0 BB/9.
While moving up and down between Durham and Tampa and with his new found control of the strike zone Ramos has become a lead dog in the fight for one of the remaining bullpen spots. Jim Hickey evaluates Ramos by saying "Cesar Ramos is certainly a capable guy, He's a guy a lot like J.P. Howell -- he can face the left-handers and the right-handers. He's not just going to be lefty-lefty type of guy. So I'm very comfortable with that as well."
Assuming that the Rays add one more reliever in free agency and Roberto Hernandez joins the bullpen at the end of spring training this leaves the Rays in the precarious position of filling the two remaining spots that go to a pair of left handed relievers each who is out of options.
Over the past several seasons there have come times when either the bullpen or starting staff has a few tough outings in a row and roster moves are made to ease the pressure by calling a fresh arm up from the minors. In order to take advantage of the fresh arm the Rays would have only Jake McGee with an option and barring an extreme decline in performance he will not be spending time in Durham in 2013. More than likely the Rays will have to trade or expose one of Torres or Ramos to waivers.