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Tampa Bay Rays set rotation for first series

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Jonathan Dyer-USA TODAY Sports

The Rays have named their starting rotation for the coming season, with an eye on match-ups as opposed to a straight ranking of talent and ability.

With Alex Cobb, Drew Smyly, Matt Moore, and Alex Colome out of the rotation, the team traded for Erasmo Ramirez and secured Nate Karns to take on starting rolls as players return from injury, and this morning set the front three:

With Erasmo Ramirez considered "likely" to be in the Rays rotation, but currently yet to arrive in Rays camp, it's hard to say where he slots. If anything, he could be named the "fourth starter" but if so, that forth starter only needs to pitch two turns in the rotation: April 10 vs Miami, and April 15 vs Toronto. By that point, Erasmo would likely move into a long man role from the bullpen.

Smyly is the first expected back mid-April, already throwing in his rehab from shoulder tendinitis (his first live BP session was yesterday, and has another scheduled Saturday), followed by Alex Cobb who is farther behind in his return from forearm tendinitis. Both could be back in form by the end of April.

Here's what the rotation looks like with Karns and Odorizzi going 2-3 in the order:

APRIL OPPONENT TIME (ET) TB PITCHER OPP. PITCHER
Mon, Apr 6 Baltimore 3:10 PM Chris Archer Tillman
Tue, Apr 7 Baltimore 7:10 PM Nate Karns Chen
Wed, Apr 8 Baltimore 7:10 PM Jake Odorizzi Gonzalez
Thu, Apr 9 Off Day
Fri, Apr 10 @ Miami 7:10 PM "4th starter" Haren
Sat, Apr 11 @ Miami 4:10 PM Chris Archer Cosart
Sun, Apr 12 @ Miami 1:10 PM Nate Karns Alvarez
Mon, Apr 13 @ Toronto 7:07 PM Jake Odorizzi Dickey
Tue, Apr 14 @ Toronto 7:07 PM X Norris
Wed, Apr 15 @ Toronto 7:07 PM "4th starter" Buehrle
Thu, Apr 16 @ Toronto 7:07 PM Chris Archer Sanchez
Fri, Apr 17 NY Yankees 7:10 PM Nate Karns Warren
Sat, Apr 18 NY Yankees 7:10 PM Jake Odorizzi Tanaka
Sun, Apr 19 NY Yankees 1:10 PM X Pineda
Mon, Apr 20 Off Day
Tue, Apr 21 Boston 7:10 PM Chris Archer Buchholz
Wed, Apr 22 Boston 7:10 PM Nate Karns Porcello
Thu, Apr 23 Boston 7:10 PM Jake Odorizzi Masterson
Fri, Apr 24 Toronto 7:10 PM X Norris
Sat, Apr 25 Toronto 6:10 PM Y Buehrle
Sun, Apr 26 Toronto 1:10 PM Chris Archer Sanchez
Mon, Apr 27 @ NY Yankees 7:05 PM Nate Karns Warren
Tue, Apr 28 @ NY Yankees 7:05 PM Jake Odorizzi Tanaka
Wed, Apr 29 @ NY Yankees 1:05 PM X Pineda

All three of the place holders in bold could be call-ups or men out of the bullpen taking on a heavy load, but if rehabilitation schedules go according to plan, none should be a mystery.

The X in the rotation is likely Drew Smyly, as his next live batting practice session on Saturday will put him on four day's rest. Two rehab starts of 75-pitches, and he could be back in the mix for that April 14th slot.

The Y marker can be your first placeholder for Alex Cobb or another call up if he is not ready, like the rehabbing Alex Colome.

Colome will need to gain back physical form before his promotion, he was sidelined by pneumonia which required a week of hospitalization, and lost some weight. He should be on the Rays roster as he's out of options but I'd imagine his return will be to the bullpen to capitalize on his electric stuff.

If Cobb is ready to return even earlier, it's possible the Rays drop Nate Karns from his role, but that is less likely. If the Rays do make that shuffle, look toward April 22nd as being the start Cobb might step in.

The opposing pitchers listed above are just guesses on my part, but they paint an interesting picture. The Rays have their work cut out for themselves.