Roberto Hernandez Named Fifth Starter

J. Meric

The guy we all want to call Fausto has earned the No.5 slot in the starting rotation.

The guy we all want to call Fausto has earned the No.5 slot in the starting rotation, the Rays announced this morning:

Joe Maddon had confirmed Alex Cobb would pitch from the fourth slot early in Spring Training, which left the oft-injured Jeff NIemann and Roberto Hernandez (formerly Fausto Carmona) in competition for the fifth start.

The last few weeks has raised concern over Niemann's velocity, unable to reach 90 mph on his fastball does not bode well for a pitcher in the starting rotation.

Advantages for Hernandez include a career groundball rate above 58%, a fastball that sits around 92 mph, and pitching over 180 innings in 2010 and 2011 (satisfying all those looking for the Rays to "replace James Shields). He's missed plenty of playing time serving a suspension for identity fraud, so recent numbers are not available, but it seems the Rays trust Hernandez can return to form. Hernandez posted a 3.77 ERA and 4.11 FIP in 210 innings during 2010, only two seasons ago.

Niemann will take his turn in the bullpen, hopefully harnessing his recent improvements. Niemann trended positively in terms of strikeouts, walks, and home runs last season, and has seen consistent increases in groundballs (and decreases in flyballs) over the last three years.

The point is somewhat moot, however, as both players are merely stopgaps for the arrival of Chris Archer.

REACTIONS:

2007: 32 GS, 215 IP, 3.06 ERA, 3.94 FIP
5.73 K/9, 2.55 BB/9, 0.67 HR/9
64.3 GB%, Fastball avg 93.5 mph

UPDATE:

Interviews on the decision, courtesy of Marc Topkin and the Tampa Bay Times:

Rays Niemann on the decision (via wwwtampabaycom)

Rays Maddon on picking Hernandez (via wwwtampabaycom)

You can read Topkin's full story here.

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