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Rays Season Preview: Pitching outlook and remaining questions

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Danny Farquhar
Danny Farquhar
Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

In total, the Rays have 22 pitchers remaining in the major league camp, with roster cuts soon to follow this weekend. The full list of arms is as follows:

Matt Andriese, Chris Archer, Andrew Bellatti, Brad Boxberger, David Carpenter, Xavier Cedeno (L), Alex Cobb, Alex Colome, Dana Eveland (L), Danny Farquhar, Steve Geltz, Jhan Marinez, Kyle McPherson, Matt Moore (L), Jake Odorizzi, Erasmo Ramirez, Enny Romero (L), Mark Sappington, Drew Smyly (L), Tyler Sturdevant, Ryan Webb, Chase Whitley

The rotation remains essentially set, thanks to a lack of injury this Spring, returning the same front five from the end of last season.

In terms of narrowing the pitchers to the 25-man roster, some names are easy to eliminate from the projected 25-man roster, as their injuries will keep them out at the start of the season. Namely Alex Cobb, Chase Whitley, and closer Brad Boxberger.

Still, there's much to be discussed:

Rotation

Chris Archer RHP

Drew Smyly LHP

Jake Odorizzi RHP

Matt Moore LHP

Erasmo Ramirez RHP

Already named the Opening Day starter, Chris Archer is the ace of the staff and rightfully leads the list. Following is a great L-R-L-R diversity for the Rays, including two southpaws who have returned from injury in full form this Spring. Knock on every piece of wood you can find for that to continue.

Even Jake Odorizzi had injury concerns down the stretch of 2015. He is back to form, and a full season from him would be more than ideal.

Odorizzi and Ramirez shined for the Rays in 2015, with Erasmo pitching at an incredible level in the second half of the season. Erasmo may be destined for the bullpen by season's end, but by all accounts that should not be detrimental to his game. When asking around, I'm told Erasmo could pitch any day of the week if he were asked. That's a skill the Rays are currently employing form the rotation, but that will shine in the 'pen.

Eventually the Rays may need to make way for Alex Cobb and Chase Whitley, both of whom are anticipated to start for the Rays post Tommy John surgery, and let's not forget the Fab Four in Durham's rotation: Blake Snell, Jake Faira, Taylor Guerrieri, and Jaime Schultz.

Add to that mix the respectabel arsenal of Matt Andriese and the Rays have ten starting arms available at some point this season. If the injury bug bites this club again, they are in far better position to handle it. On the flip side, we may have an active trade deadline for starting depth, regardless of the win count.

Bullpen

Alex Colome RHP

Xavier Cedeno LHP

Ryan Webb RHP

Enny Romero LHP

Steve Geltz RHP

Danny Farquhar RHP

Matt Andriese RHP

Former dominant reliever David Carpenter and southpaw veteran Dana Eveland both have a case for the majors, but Carpenter is still building velocity, and the schedule does not favor Eveland.

Right out of the gate the Rays have four games against a very right handed Blue Jays lineup. I think we could see both players by May, but not for Opening Day.

It should be noted again that 2015 closer and AL saves leader Brad Boxberger is missing from the above. His core muscle surgery should sideline him several weeks into the season.

In the place of those three names are optionable arms, which should allow for an easy promotion of any at a later time. I'm referring to Geltz, Farquhar, and Andriese (in order of likelihood to stay on the major league squad). The other four relievers are not optionable.

If the Rays do result to some roster shenanigans and move Erasmo to the bullpen to start the season (given the four off-days to start the year) it's possible the Rays roll with a four man rotation and that Erasmo takes the Andriese long-relief role. That extra roster spot would then go to one of the seven key players who might miss the cut for Opening Day.

As for the names missing the cut, Andrew Bellatti (a personal favorite on the 40-man) is likely to ride the Durham shuttle throughout the season again, but his killer slider should stick around to the end of camp.

Meanwhile, minor league free agent Tyler Sturdevant, returning minor league free agent Jhan Marinez, Tommy John recovered prospect Kyle McPherson, new look Mark Sappington (he learned a cutter!) are less likely to crack the 25-man without injury.