Karns Optioned; Three Remain in Battle for Rotation Spot | The Process Report

Karns Optioned; Three Remain in Battle for Rotation Spot

Earlier today, the Rays optioned Nate Karns to Durham, ending his campaign for the fifth starter’s spot. Some time over the next two and a half weeks, the Rays will have to choose between Jake Odorizzi, Erik Bedard, and Cesar Ramos to fill the rotation. Ostensibly Ramos will shift to the bullpen, leaving the Rays to decide whether they believe Odorizzi has developed enough to hold the fort down.

Development, not service-time consideration, figures to be the driving force behind the decision. Though the Rays are servants to the Super Two deadline when it comes to position players, they seldom show the same restraint with pitchers. Consider a few recent examples:

  • Jeff Niemann opened the 2009 season in the majors and never returned to the minors.
  • David Price, on the other hand, started that season on the farm before returning to the majors in late May. He finished the season with 164 days of major league service time (MLS)—a figure that afforded the Rays another year of control, but did not prevent him from attaining Super Two status.
  • Wade Davis debuted in 2009, then subsequently made his first opening day roster the following April. He signed an extension in March 2011.
  • Jeremy Hellickson followed Davis’ lead the ensuing season, save for the extension. Hellickson returned to the minors for a brief stay last September, but has otherwise stayed in the majors.
  • Chris Archer reported to Durham to open last season under comparable circumstances to Odorizzi. He was recalled in June and stayed for the remainder of the calendar year. Barring an unexpected demotion Archer, like Price before him, will qualify for Super Two status after the 2015 season.

If the Rays have changed their philosophy, Odorizzi would be an odd starting point. While he projects to develop into a no. 4 starter—perhaps more, depending on the progress of his command and split-changeup—he lacks the obvious ceiling offered by previous pitchers, including a no-doubter like Price. Should Bedard win the no. 5 spot, all signs suggest he’ll do so because the Rays believe Odorizzi has more progress to make on the farm, and not because they desire to save cash.

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