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Jake Faria to be stretched out as starter

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A popular player gets an early demotion to focus on his road back to the majors.

MLB: Tampa Bay Rays-Media Day Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Jake Faria has been impressive this spring. Nonetheless his name appeared on a list of players assigned or optioned to minor league camp. While this must feel discouraging for the player, it is likely a sign that the Rays see Faria as more than an afterthought in their pitching plans.

After a strong rookie campaign in 2017, Faria was not able to replicate his major league success in 2018 when the Rays needed it desperately after four starters required elbow surgery in March and April. He himself ended up on the injured list in late May with an oblique strain. His injury and subsequent demotion were part of why the Rays turned to The Opener at all.

After returning to the Rays in August, Faria pitched well in five of his seven outings, operating as a bulk guy, a role that seemed to suit his pitching style and the Rays future pitching plans.

Fast forward to this spring: Competing with 40-man roster names like Ryan Yarbrough, Yonny Chirinos, Wilmer Font (who is out of options), and Jalen Beeks, Faria has stood out from the pack, and that is a bittersweet result.

Faria has pitched so well that he will now go to the minors to return to a starter’s role:

“It’s time for him to get on a routine; it’s not the easiest thing to do the routine here. And get him stretched out,” Cash said. “The message was very similar to the message when he came in (to camp): how highly we think of him, what he’s capable of. We want to do everything we can to assist him getting back to that 2017 form.

[tampabay.com]

2017 form would be that of a plus-starter, which is a bigger ask than relief or bulk work. Faria would have (reasonably) preferred to be in the majors, and has posted to social media in kind, emphasizing his belief in himself:

View this post on Instagram

Prove them wrong, prove myself right.

A post shared by Jacob Faria (@jdfaria34) on

This move came early, but it was the right timing if Faria is indeed in line for a spot in a five-man rotation.

Sometimes, to go forward you must go back.