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Tampa Bay Rays spring training battles: The final bullpen spot

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It’s seemingly a three horse race for the final spot in the Rays bullpen just a few games into Spring Training

New York Yankees v Tampa Bay Rays Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images

There is less than a month to go until Opening Day arrives and the vast majority of the roster has already been decided; however, there are still several spots at stake that will be decided over the next couple of weeks.

Among the spots up for grabs will be the final seat in the bullpen as several pitchers in camp are battling to break camp with the team.

As of now, the Rays bullpen situation is mostly decided with the staff consisting of right-handed pitchers Diego Castillo, Nick Anderson, Oliver Drake, and Chaz Roe, and left-handed pitcher Jose Alvarado and Colin Poche.

Despite the new 26-man rosters, the Rays are still expected to employ 12 pitchers on their staff, leaving them with one spot open for contention this spring.

Early on this spring, the pitchers that have emerged as the main contenders for that final spot are RHP Andrew Kittredge, LHP Aaron Loup, and RHP Peter Fairbanks.

Aaron Loup

Loup is a veteran southpaw that has spent the majority of his eight year big league career with he Toronto Blue Jays, while also spending some time with the Philadelphia Phillies and most recently with the San Diego Padres. However, he is at a disadvantage as his competitors are both on the 40-man roster while he is a non-roster invitee. Nonetheless, Loup may impress the Rays brass enough to warrant a spot on the roster.

Andrew Kittredge

Kittredge made his Major League debut with the Rays back in 2017 and a year later, he’d be the pioneered the ‘opener’ for the team. During the next offseason, Kittredge joined the Driveline program and results were instantaneous for him as he dominated the Triple-A level in 2019 and showed some promising results for the Rays late in the season. Kittredge still has an option remaining as well.

Peter Fairbanks

The Rays acquired Fairbanks last Summer in exchange for infielder Nick Solak. Fairbanks surged to the Major Leagues last season after previously having never pitched above A+. A not very promising reliever that endured two Tommy John surgeries, Fairbanks completed revamped his delivery while rehabbing towards the end of 2018 and this provided him with a completely different career trajectory as he went from having a below average fastball to a plus one and it was likewise for his secondary pitch.

Fairbanks problems now stem from his lack of command. Once he is able to harness control, he could be an excellent piece in the backend of a Major League bullpen.

There are many more pitchers in camp vying for that final spot, and dark horses like RHP Tyler Zombro or LHP Ryan Sherriff may emerge as contenders in the near future, but as of now, these three hurlers are breaking away from the rest of the field.