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Rays set four-man starting rotation for 2018

The Rays were aggressive in setting the rotation the week Pitchers and Catchers reported.

Tampa Bay Rays Photo Day Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

Speaking with the media after the Jake Odorizzi trade, Tampa Bay Rays manager Kevin Cash confirmed the Rays will roll with a four-man rotation.

The 2018 schedule curiously has eight off days for Tampa Bay between opening day and May 10, 2018, meaning the Rays will only need a spot start here and there until more than a month into the season, not much unlike in 2016.

Furthermore, to eliminate any possible starter controversy, Cash has already informed rotation candidate Matt Andriese that he will pitch from the bullpen in 2018. Andriese reported to camp prepared to compete for the rotation, but the team was quick to confirm who will make the starting rotation last Friday, before position player work outs had even begun.

Here’s who will be pitching in the Rays rotation in 2018.

The Guaranteed Contracts

RHP Chris Archer

18:$6.25M,19:$7.5M, 20:$9M club option ($1.75M buyout), 21:$11M club option ($0.25M buyout)

Last season the Rays ace proved himself as an elite pitcher by developing two distinct versions of his slider, transforming himself into a four-pitch menace in the AL East when paired with his fastball and change.

Archer performed at his best last season with men in scoring position, with an MLB leading 63 strikeouts among qualified pitchers when caught in that situation. His 34% strikeout rate in that split trailed only Chris Sale.

RHP Nathan Eovaldi

18:$2M club option with performance bonuses

The only other pitcher on a guaranteed contract is Nathan Eovaldi, who the Rays signed to the now-in-vogue two-year deal for starters recovering from Tommy John.

A flamethrower by trade, Eovaldi is recovering from his second such surgery, which means he’ll have to beat the odds to become a successful starter for the Rays. Most pitchers only return to a successful career in relief after going under the knife twice for that surgery. Eovaldi could break the mold.

The experienced starters under team control

LHP Blake Snell

Under team control through 2022

Snell improved his slider dramatically in 2017, and relies on all of his secondary pitches to get work done. In fact, you have to wonder what adjustments could make his fastball play up even higher and elevate Snell’s game permanently in 2018.

He was sent down briefly last season after some difficulty, but after work with now-promoted pitching coach Kyle Snyder was renewed, he was able to halve his walk rate to improve his FIP from 5.14 to 3.56 in the second half. His final start of the season featured a career high 13 strikeouts in 7.0 IP against the Orioles.

RHP Jake Faria

Under team control through 2023

Faria broke onto the scene for the Rays in 2017, going 5-4 with a 3.43 ERA, while striking out nearly a batter an inning (8.72 K/9).

Faria didn’t come with as much fanfare as Blake Snell or (soon-to-be) Brent Honeywell, but he was twice a top-ten prospect in the Rays system, and he showed what he was capable of as a 23-year-old last year.

Faria showcased off a three-pitch repertoire (with a curveball tossed in every once in a while) that featured a changeup that began the year as his best pitch, and a slider that ended the year as his best pitch. It is easy to picture the 6’ 4” righty locking down a mid-rotation spot for Tampa Bay for the next several seasons.

More on the Four Man rotation

For more on exactly why the Rays would feature a four-man rotation, please revisit this write up from last December by J.T. Morgan.