CINCINNATI — The Tampa Bay Rays spent the first off day of the season deciding which way to go on two major issues.
The first, of course, is the future of Matt Moore’s left elbow — season-ending surgery or a lengthy rehab aimed at getting him back on the mound this season?
The Rays were still evaluating Moore’s status today, and there is really no rush either way. Surgery on his partially torn ulnar collateral ligament will keep Moore off the big-league roster until early next season, and he won’t return any time soon if he chooses rehab.
The second and more immediate issue dealt with the big question of who will replace Moore in the rotation — Cesar Ramos or Erik Bedard?
Manager Joe Maddon said he would make that announcement Friday before the Rays open a three-game series against the Reds in Cincinnati.
Ramos said Wednesday morning he had not been told to throw a bullpen session, which would indicate he would join the rotation. He did, however, take batting practice with the pitchers before Wednesday afternoon’s game against the Kansas City Royals.
Ramos pitched one inning during the loss to the Royals, a move that Maddon said afterward was aimed at keeping Ramos sharp should he pitch Sunday.
Ramos and Bedard competed with Jake Odorizzi during spring training for the final spot in the rotation. Odorizzi emerged as the fifth starter.
Bedard, who was in camp on a minor-league deal, used his opt-out clause and looked for a spot on the Opening Day roster of another team. Having come up empty, Bedard signed another minor-league deal with the Rays and headed to Triple-A Durham.
The Rays were happy to have Bedard in the organization. The lefty with 10 years of big-league experience as a starter would be a big boost for the depth among the starting pitchers, especially after Alex Colome was suspended for the first 50 games of Durham’s season after testing positive for a performance-enhancing drug.
“We tried to really have him understand that we do like him and we don’t want him to leave, because we do believe there’s going to be that moment when he’s going to help us,” Maddon said March 22, the day he informed Bedard he would not make the Opening Day rotation. “Most of the time, the 25 guys you leave (camp) with are not the same 25 that’s popping champagne at the end of the season.”
It would seem Bedard is the logical choice to join the rotation given he is with the organization for this very purpose.
But, Ramos opened eyes during spring training when given the chance to compete for the fifth spot. A long man in the bullpen since he joined the Rays, Ramos did nothing to show he could not handle the role as a starter.
Neither Ramos or Bedard are stretched out to pitch deep into a game. Ramos’ longest outing this season was 12⁄3 innings. Bedard worked four innings Monday in a start for the Bulls.
Maddon said that shouldn’t be a factor provided that David Price, who pitches Friday, and Alex Cobb, who pitches Saturday, can work deep into their starts and reduce the workload on the bullpen.
The discussion on who gets the first crack at replacing Moore is “philosophical,” Maddon said.
Bedard returned to the organization with the understanding that he was with Durham until something opened up at the major-league level.
So, this is his chance, right?
Ramos asked for and received a chance to show his worth as a starter during spring training. Maddon raved about Ramos’ work this spring, saying Ramos proved he could handle a spot in the rotation.
So, this is his chance, right?
“Part of it is the overall way spring training played out and the conversations we had with both guys,” Maddon said, when talking about the “philosophical” decision. “We really try to adhere to what we tell these people, tell our players, and I think it’s really important, the integrity of our conversations.”