A lot has been made about this fifteen day stretch without an off day, but I failed to look forward. With the threat of a potential rain out in Baltimore the first couple of games in this series it was pointed out that the Orioles and Rays share an off day on Thursday. The easy solution was move one of these rain soaked days to Thursday.
Then I got to looking at the upcoming schedule and boy is it a doozy. Starting Friday the Rays are scheduled to play 20 straight days. 20! This is quite absurd. The Rays have one scheduled off day in May.
Better yet, in a 50 day stretch between April 12 and May 31 the Rays have two scheduled off days. April 27 and May 18.
A lot of focus was placed on the difficulty of Tampa Bay’s April schedule. As a member of the American League East it’s expected when you play a run of divisional opponents that the schedule won’t be easy. Add in a solid Detroit Tigers team and a Houston Astros team that is among the favorites to win the AL and it was never going to be easy.
The Rays have to play their schedule in front of them, but how was it decided the Rays should go from all the off days at the beginning of the season last year to having next to none for the first two months this year?
Stretches like this really put stress on the bullpen.
The bullpen normally isn’t a strength, but the Rays are now on to option number 12 after having to place Xavier Cedeno and Tommy Hunter on the disabled this week. Brad Boxberger and Shawn Tolleson are sitting on the 60-day disabled list after suffering injuries in spring training. In a surprising move the Rays bit the bullet and moved Jaime Schultz to the bullpen to start the season in Durham to get him used to pitching in relief. However he’s on the disabled list with a groin injury.
Everybody has to deal with injuries and 12+ relievers are commonly needed to make it through the season. Some injuries are expected. Some under performance is expected. Some guys will bounce around on the Durham Shuttle, but even the Triple-A bullpen depth has injuries.
These things are normal, but for the Rays, everything has happened at once.
A healthy bullpen at full strength with reinforcements available to be called up will have a tough time making it through 48 games in 50 days.
Jake Odorizzi is expected to return from the disabled list to make a start next Monday and could be the biggest help the Rays bullpen gets over the next five weeks.
The starting pitchers might have to wear a few losses where they give up a ton of runs, but go out there and throw seven innings while allowing eight to ten runs when required. Other starting pitchers will be asked to get an extra out or three when you prefer to pull them. As we saw with Chris Archer last night, even with the best of starters, this won’t often work.
It looks like the Rays will be getting healthier with Colby Rasmus making his debut in the near future and Mallex Smith potentially returning in short order. Matt Duffy is on schedule to return in the next two to four weeks. The Rays might have to slug their way through this grind.
But the Rays bullpen remains mired in injury. Xavier Cedeno (forearm) is on his way to see Dr. James Andrews. Brad Boxberger (flexor) and Tommy Hunter (calf) are sidelined until June. Shawn Tolleson (back, flexor) is missing in action. All four possible set up men behind All-Star closer Alex Colome will be missing the month of May, at a minimum.
If the Rays get out of this stretch without falling too far behind the pack, the skies will clear and the Rays will enjoy a few more days of rest throughout the last 100 days of the season.