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Spring Training Battles- Part 3: Young Guns(The Rotation)

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Coming into this offseason, many fans wanted us to make some kind of adjustment to our pitching staff. When I mean pitching staff, I mean our starting rotation.

Did we get our wish??? Eh, not really. We traded for 2 pitchers, 1 with some major league experience as a starter and 1 pitcher with gaudy pitching stats but has some bouts with gopheritis.

We basically are left with the same rotation we left last season with(minus Dewon Brazelton, woo hoo), but all of these starters now have a thought in the back of their mind that the new ownership and coaching staff will make trades and call-up prospects if they don't perform. To some, it may help them....to others, probably won't matter to them.

After 2005, the Rays were thought to have pretty much 1 SP worth notice and the other 4 were basically serviceable arms that probably wouldn't make anyone else's rotation. Many publications were going about saying that 2006's season will rest on Scott Kazmir's young shoulders and we're in for a doozy when he fails to live up to expectations.

I wouldn't go THAT far, just because of the upside of some of the other pitchers who are gunning for rotation spots.

I'm kind of biased towards Seth McClung, but I really think that "Big Red" is really coming into his own as a SP and his long, hard days of "high ERAs & high walks" are nearly over. He's finally 100% after recovering from Tommy John surgery and now he has a GOOD pitching coach to work with in Mike Butcher. No offense to Chuck Hernandez, but for the last few years I couldn't understand how Hernandez was allowed to keep his job. Seth's control is probably the only thing that is really standing in his way from reaching the potential that many of us see in him and I think that with good coaching, he'll knock out the kinks and just flat-out dominate. He's got the temperment and "stuff"(though people still have doubts about his change-up and "breaking stuff) to be a bulldog in this league and his last start Vs. Cleveland was just an example of how good he can be when he's "on".

Edwin Jackson is another example of a pitcher with enormous potential, but due to misuse....some have started to think of him as a bust. Once the 4th best prospect in ALL OF BASEBALL, E-Jax's first major league start was at the age of 19 against Randy Johnson. The thing is, he flatout dominated D-Back hitters and got the win against "The Big Unit". With all the hype surrounding that surge through the minors and the dominance he showed in his 1st MLB start, most teams would have shut Edwin down for the rest of the season as a reward. Pretty much saying "Kid, you got this far, beat one of the best pitchers in the game today in your 1st start, now we're going to let you rest and make sure you're ready for next season"....but that's not how the Dodgers work. They pretty much used Edwin like he was a pair of K-Mart discount "Flip-flops". They bounced him around, having him go back and forth between minor league and major league venues, vastly hindering him with 2 week breaks between starts and other questionable practices. Not to mention, they probably really hurt him by having him pitch in the most extreme hitters parks in all of the minors when they placed him in Las Vegas. I'll stop making excuses for his lack of dominant stats in the Dodgers Organization, but we traded for him and I think we're going to get good years(hopefully starting from 2006) out of the 22 year old.

Casey Fossum is hard to peg as a starter. There's games where you're saying to yourself "Wow, how could both the D-Backs and Red Sox let him go?" and then there's games where fans ask "Why is he in the rotation?" I believe that Foss' best role on this team would be as a "swing-man" type of pitcher, but with the guys that we have now...he's more than likely our 3rd or 4th starter in the rotation. With the Rays, he's learning to master 2 things: "The Fossum Flip" and "How to grow a bushy beard". I'm excited about "The Flip" moreso than the beard, but different strokes for different folks. Once we get a solid 5 man rotation settled(maybe in another season, maybe in 2...who knows?), I think the Rays will move Foss to the bullpen where his "stuff" would be used most effectively.

You know your pitching staff isn't really doing much when Mark "Lurch" Hendrickson has led the team in wins the last 2 seasons. Yeah,just saying that makes me cringe. One thing probably explains Lurch's winning ways the most: Luck. I'm not saying that Lurch is a horrible pitcher(he does have great games), but a soft-tossing giant shouldn't be getting 10-11 wins in the majors on a year-to-year basis. Lurch, even more than Fossum, should be a bullpen pitcher...but again, because of the Rays lack of starters at the major league level....he's in the rotation. Once Hammel, Tiffany or Shields are officially ready for the majors, Lurch's Days as a starter are over.

Last, but not least, is the Rays last candidate to make the rotation is Doug Waechter. There's no doubt that Doug has major league "stuff"(which Lurch can't even say), but one flaw about Doug just gets stuck in your craw. He gives up way, way, waaaaaaaaaaaay too many HRs. It's hard to explain, but theories about Doug have been proven wrong. He doesn't give up HRs because he's tired, he doesn't give up HRs bc of the Rays playing in the "Trop"...but Doug just gives up jack after jack nonetheless. Doug is another pitcher that would be best suited in the 'pen, hell he proved that to us last year when Foss had a groin problem and Doug had to become an emergency reliever. Yet, until the Rays start signing SP or getting more "close to the majors" pitching prospects...Doug will be a Rays starter.

If I were choosing the Rays rotation, as of right now, here's how I'd see it.

  1. Scott Kazmir
  2. Seth McClung
  3. Casey Fossum
  4. Edwin Jackson
  5. Doug Waechter