Only on the Rays would a talented "big league ready" pitcher be sent indefinitely to the minor leagues.
The Rays entered spring training with four pitchers in competition for their 5th starter spot. Now they're down to two as top prospects Chris Archer and Jake Odorizzi have been optioned to Triple-A, as has lefty Alexander Torres.
Archer getting sent down was far from an unexpected move- he has options remaining while Roberto Hernandez and Jeff Niemann are guaranteed $3.25MM and $3MM respectively this season- but for fans of the other 29 teams, this move doesn't make very much sense. Joe Maddon said of Archer that "he could be here right now," and how many teams will take a talented young right-hander with a blisterring mid-90's fastball, a sharp slider, and a changeup that has made strides this spring and sent him to the minor leagues this early in camp?
The other side of the coin, though, is that the Rays have had a tradition of leaving "big league ready" pitchers in the minor leagues, with Jeremy Hellickson, Alex Cobb, Jeff Niemann, and Wade Davis all being recent examples, and it's never a bad situation to have too much pitching depth and be forced to do that. Archer is only a year removed for major control struggles, and while he could probably handle a starting role in the major leagues right now, heading down to Triple-A to continue to work on his control in addition to his changeup is far from the worst thing for his development.
Odorizzi getting sent down certainly makes sense as he looked OK in the spring but needs major work on keeping the ball down in the zone before he can be big league ready as his groundball rate was just 29.4% between Double-A and Triple-A last season and he allowed some really hard contact in exhibition play. It's crazy that Odorizzi was basically a nonentity in the Rays 5th starter competition, but it's a luxury for the Rays that they can take their time with him and make sure he's completely big league ready before coming up.
Torres, meanwhile, is coming off a great performance this spring, managing a 1.93 ERA with 6 strikeouts versus not a single walk in 4.2 IP across 3 outings, and the 25 year old lefty continues to rebound following a disastrous 2012 when he walked 7.5 batters per 9 innings. Torres pitched well for the Rays in September of 2011 before his 2012 struggles, but after how well he pitched in Winter Ball and now spring training, the Rays have to be a little more confident that he'll be able to serve at least a middle relief roll at some point in the near future.
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The Rays lost 3-1 to the Yankees on Tuesday, but Alex Cobb was sharp once again, going 5 innings allowing just 2 hits while striking out 6. Talking about Price getting the Opening Day nod, Cobb joked following the game that "It was rigged, man. We didn't get a fair chance!"
Recapping World Baseball Classic action, Fernando Rodney nailed down the save in a hitless inning in the Dominican Republic's 5-4 comeback win over Italy while Ben Zobrist went 0 for 3 with a walk as the US rolled over Puerto Rico 7-1. Rodney still hasn't allowed a hit in 3.1 innings pitched while Zobrist is hitting .375 on the WBC.
MiLB.com's Andrew Pentis highlighted Jake Odorizzi as part of his "Defensive Gems" series on top prospect who are also great defenders. After Jeremy Hellickson won the AL Gold Glove for pitcher in 2012, the Rays may have another future Gold Glover in Odorizzi. You know the Rays like to grab every advantage they can possibly get, and pitcher defense may be an example of that.
Scott Kazmir tossed 4 shutout innings for the Indians on Monday and is now the favorite for the Indians' 5th starter job. It's amazing how much Kazmir has persevered, and while even winning the job would only be the first step to him reestablishing him as a big league starter, it's amazing how far he has come.