PORT CHARLOTTE, FL. — The Rays made headlines earlier this month when they announced they would begin the season with a four-man rotation for starting pitchers. With the subsequent injuries to both Brent Honeywell and Jose De Leon, it seems likely the team will continue to use a four-man core group, and either pitch-by-committee or use minor league starters when a fifth man is needed.
On Thursday the Rays finally made an official announcement about the pitching rotation for opening week. There was no great surprise with their Opening Day decision, with Chris Archer getting the nod. This will be Archer’s fourth time taking the mound on Opening Day, the only Rays pitcher to get the nod four consecutive times.
Asked whether pitching opening day ever gets old, Archer responded:
Never. To do it four consecutive years, it’s a goal of mine. It’s such a pitching rich organization it’s an honor to represent the Tampa Bay Rays the first game of the season.
DRB asked Archer whether he felt any extra pressure to pitch deep into games, knowing that the bullpen was going to have extra work as the “fifth starter.” Not at all, he said, because he is always seeking to excel:
For me, for the past four seasons I’ve thrown a minimum 194 innings. They are not saying “Hey Arch we need 20 more pitches out of you today.” They just want me to do my thing. I’ve always had the highest standard for myself regardless of whether I’m the first starter or the fifth starter or in triple A or rookie ball. I’ve always had the highest standard for myself so I don’t think of it as any different. My role is the same. Compete, pitch as deep in the game as I can.
As for the rest of the week, the rotation will shape up as follows:
Thurs March 29 vs Boston — Chris Archer
Fri March 30 vs Boston — Blake Snell
Sat March 31 vs Boston — Bullpen day
Sun April 1 vs Boston — Nate Eovaldi
Mon April 2 @ Yankees — Jacob Faria
The fifth rotation spot will obviously see some changes as the season progresses, but the Rays remain convinced they can keep up a four-man squad for the foreseeable future. Expect to see the core rotation shape up in the same order as above for the remainder of the year.