The Rays moved Erasmo Ramirez to the bullpen to start the season after they found a fifth starter would be redundant to the team's needs.
Thanks to several off days across the first two months, the Rays will not need to utilize a consistent five man rotation until late May. They can accomplish this by calling on replacements in Triple-A Durham when the time comes that a spot start is needed.
Here is how the first two months shake out, using the current Rays rotation of Chris Archer, Drew Smyly, Jake Odorizzi, and Matt Moore:
|Sun, 4/3||Blue Jays||4:05p||Archer|
|Mon, 4/4||Blue Jays||7:10p||Smyly|
|Tue, 4/5||Blue Jays||7:10p||Odorizzi|
|Wed, 4/6||Blue Jays||1:10p||Moore|
|Fri, 4/8||at Orioles||7:05p||Archer|
|Sat, 4/9||at Orioles||7:05p||Smyly|
|Sun, 4/10||at Orioles||1:35p||Odorizzi|
|Fri, 4/15||White Sox||7:10p||Smyly|
|Sat, 4/16||White Sox||6:10p||Odorizzi|
|Sun, 4/17||White Sox||1:10p||Moore|
|Tue, 4/19||at Red Sox||7:10p||Archer|
|Wed, 4/20||at Red Sox||7:10p||Smyly|
|Thu, 4/21||at Red Sox||1:35p||Odorizzi|
|Fri, 4/22||at Yankees||7:05p||Moore|
|Sat, 4/23||at Yankees||1:05p||---|
|Sun, 4/24||at Yankees||1:05p||Archer|
|Fri, 4/29||Blue Jays||7:10p||Archer|
|Sat, 4/30||Blue Jays||6:10p||Smyly|
|Sun, 5/1||Blue Jays||1:10p||Odorizzi|
|Fri, 5/6||at Angels||10:05p||Smyly|
|Sat, 5/7||at Angels||9:05p||Odorizzi|
|Sun, 5/8||at Angels||3:35p||Moore|
|Mon, 5/9||at Mariners||10:10p||Archer|
|Tue, 5/10||at Mariners||10:10p||---|
|Wed, 5/11||at Mariners||3:40p||Smyly|
|Mon, 5/16||at Blue Jays||7:07p||Smyly|
|Tue, 5/17||at Blue Jays||7:07p||---|
|Wed, 5/18||at Blue Jays||7:07p||Odorizzi|
|Fri, 5/20||at Tigers||7:10p||Moore|
|Sat, 5/21||at Tigers||4:10p||Archer|
|Sun, 5/22||at Tigers||1:10p||Smyly|
|Mon, 5/23||at Marlins||7:10p||Odorizzi|
|Tue, 5/24||at Marlins||12:10p||---|
|Mon, 5/30||at Royals||8:15p||Moore|
|Tue, 5/31||at Royals||8:15p||Archer|
There are only three days on the calendar the Rays will need a spot starter for the rotation: April 13 vs Indians, April 23 at Yankees, May 10 at Mariners, and an additional day the following week around May 17.
The first two spot start opportunities are close enough to one another that the Rays could utilize just one pitcher; letting him throw a simulation on the off-day in between, but given the team's proclivity for using a quick hook on starters, the team may be more apt to refresh the bullpen by promoting arms from Triple-A for one start and then replacing them with another optionable reliever.
It's worth noting that the first opportunity on April 13th mirrors what could be normal rest for whichever pitcher throws second in Durham. The following spot starts are seven and then seventeen days later if the Rays elected for that slot.
A final spot start then opens up in the May 15-17 range, depending on how the Rays want to pace the rotation, somewhere between seven and nine days before a true fifth starter is needed.
Finally, it will not be until Tuesday, May 24th, when the schedule settles into a standard rotation, necessitating a fifth starter. At that time, Erasmo Ramirez could transition back into a starting role, or one of the replacements in Durham could be ready to seize the mantle.
Candidates to spot start in the three games highlights above include 2015 spot starter Matt Andriese, one of the "Fab Four" starting prospects in Durham (Blake Snell, Taylor Guerrieri, Jake Faria, Jaime Schultz), or veteran minor league signing Adam Wilk,
In the near term, if the Rays intend to utilize Andriese in a bullpen role as one of the optionable arms on the Durham shuttle, I would think that Blake Snell would be well suited to take on the White Sox in Tropicana Field, and that Taylor Guerrieri's groundball ways would be a good fit against the Yankees in New York.
Time will tell which arms might be up to the challenge when the moment arrives.
*A previous version of this article neglected to mention the spot start projected for May 17.