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Rays will piggyback Rich Hill and Chris Archer in Game 3, but will it continue?

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Off days make for some interesting rotation choices

I’m so sorry, I had to.

The Rays are in an interesting position of having off days on April 4th and April 8th, the fourth and eighth days of the season.

To fit the rotation to that schedule, Kevin Cash and company appear to preparing to piggyback Chris Archer and Rich Hill, having aligned those pitchers’ schedules in Spring Training for a couple weeks now. Both Archer and Hill pitched yesterday, and after the game Kevin Cash confirmed the pair will stay on that schedule... for now.

Accordingly, that lines up the Rays schedule for the following run through the rotation:

  • Thursday, April 1 at Miami: Tyler Glasnow (R)
  • Friday, April 2 at Miami: Ryan Yarbrough (L)
  • Saturday, April 3 at Miami: Rich Hill (L) & Chris Archer (R)
  • OFF DAY
  • Monday, April 5 at Boston: Michael Wacha (R)
  • Tuesday, April 6 at Boston: Tyler Glasnow (R)
  • Wednesday, April 7 at Boston: Ryan Yarbrough (L)
  • OFF DAY

From there, we can only speculate. What happens next may simply come down to monitoring pitcher recovery.

With so few miles on arms in 2020, injury prevention is the top concern for the Rays this season, but assuming perfect health there are a lot of ways the next trip through the rotation could go.

The Rays will follow those first two series with thirteen consecutive games as part of a 30 games in 31 days stretch, and will have several options at their disposal to piggy back or bullpen along the way.

In looking at the schedule, the Rays could keep Hill and Archer piggybacked to maximize the rotation’s efforts against the Yankees, or they could each get their own starts, which seems most likely.

Here’s what the current rotation would be with Hill and Archer still pitching together:

  • Friday, April 9 vs New York: Rich Hill (L) & Chris Archer (R)
  • Saturday, April 10 vs New York: Michael Wacha (R)
  • Sunday, April 11 vs New York: Tyler Glasnow (R)

If the Rays allow Archer and Hill to uncouple, Michael Wacha — who is likely to make some appearances behind an Opener this season — could become Hill’s piggyback partner with an extra day’s rest. Here’s what that would look like:

  • Friday, April 9 vs New York: Chris Archer (R)
  • Saturday, April 10 vs New York: Rich Hill (L) & Michael Wacha (R)
  • Sunday, April 11 vs New York: Tyler Glasnow (R)

This could be a useful alignment if the Rays want to feature the right handed Archer against the Yankees without over exposing Hill early in the season. Hill has less than 98 innings pitched over the last two seasons, and will need to be monitored throughout the year. Allowing Wacha to follow could make a quick hook against the Yankees more palatable.

Why go through this mental exercise?

If the Rays immediately lock into a traditional rotation on April 9, the resulting rotation will have Tyler Glasnow missing the Yankees series entirely, which seems less than ideal when the next series is not against a division rival:

  • Friday, April 9 vs New York: Chris Archer (R)
  • Saturday, April 10 vs New York: Rich Hill (L)
  • Sunday, April 11 vs New York: Michael Wacha (R)
  • Monday, April 12 vs Texas: Tyler Glasnow (R)

Again, projecting how any of this will shake out is a fool’s errand, but if I had to guess how it will go (assuming heath), I’d hand Chris Archer the home opener against New York, use a Hill/Wacha tandem for the second game (allowing for a quick hook of the 41-year old starter), and then trade a bullpen day against Texas on the 12th or 13th for another round of Glasnow against the rival Yankees.

The result of that would be the following start to the season:

  • Thursday, April 1 at Miami: Tyler Glasnow (R)
  • Friday, April 2 at Miami: Ryan Yarbrough (L)
  • Saturday, April 3 at Miami: Rich Hill (L) & Chris Archer (R)
  • OFF DAY
  • Monday, April 5 at Boston: Michael Wacha (R)
  • Tuesday, April 6 at Boston: Tyler Glasnow (R)
  • Wednesday, April 7 at Boston: Ryan Yarbrough (L)
  • OFF DAY
  • Friday, April 9 vs New York: Chris Archer (R)
  • Saturday, April 10 vs New York: Rich Hill (L) & Michael Wacha (R)
  • Sunday, April 11 vs New York: Tyler Glasnow (R)
  • Monday, April 12 vs Texas: Ryan Yarbrough (L)
  • Tuesday, April 13 vs Texas: Bullpen Day
  • Wednesday, April 14 vs Texas: Chris Archer (R)
  • Thursday, April 15 vs Texas: Rich Hill (L)
  • Friday, April 16 at New York: Michael Wacha (R)
  • Saturday, April 17 at New York: Tyler Glasnow (R)
  • Sunday, April 18 at New York: Ryan Yarbrough (L)
  • Monday, April 19 at Kansas City: Chris Archer (R)
  • Tuesday, April 20 at Kansas City: Rich Hill (L)
  • Wednesday, April 21 at Kansas City: Michael Wacha (R)
  • OFF DAY

This projected rotation then aligns Tyler Glasnow with the start of the first series of the year against Toronto, the season’s second homestand.

Of course, the Rays do not need to use a bullpen day. Spacing out the rotation into an immediate traditional alignment would simply bump Wacha to Sunday, April 11, but I like this maximization of Glasnow against the division rival Yankees.

And a bullpen day is only that in name. By waiting until the 12th or 13th day of the season to implement a bullpen day, the Rays will have the flexibility to option a bullpen arm for a spot starter if needed, with LHP Josh Fleming, RHP Trevor Richards, and RHP Chris Mazza all stretched out to 70 pitch workloads or more this Spring.