With opening day looming, it's fair to say the Tampa Bay Rays rotation is in shambles. Earlier this spring, they had already lost prospects Brent Honeywell and Jose De Leon to Tommy John surgery and were planning on going with a hybrid four-man rotation for around six weeks.
What was hybrid about it? Because they weren't going to only start four guys in their four-man rotation. The fifth starter spot was going to be a bullpen day. That could still be the case, but the four-man rotation is now down to three, thanks to an injury to oft-injured Nathan Eovaldi.
As noted, Eovaldi is coming off his second Tommy John surgery. He's long been viewed as a guy with high upside and his fourseam fastball velocity before his last injury was averaging over 98 miles per hour for a stretch. The 14 strikeouts against just one walk in 16 2/3 spring training innings was promising as well.
Those three certainly have upside. We know Archer can pitch like a frontline starter. Snell has frontline upside and showed flashes of brilliance down the stretch last year (5-1, 2.84 ERA in his last 10 starts, including seven scoreless innings of two-hit ball with 13 strikeouts and zero walks in his last start). Faria posted a 3.43 ERA (121 ERA+) in 86 2/3 innings as a rookie last season, too.
Again, that's a good trio. It's just that it's only 60 percent of what the Rays need.
Where do the Rays go from here? Leaving the bullpen day as a starter seems obvious, and they'll need to find a starter to fill the spot vacated by Eovaldi. For now, the Rays have recalled reliever Austin Pruitt from the minors to take a bullpen spot. If and when they place Eovaldi on the DL, that will open up another spot. It could be a reliever, pushing one of the current relievers to the rotation, or it could be a starter from the minors to take the rotation spot. Let's run through.
Maybe it's Matt Andriese? The Rays wanted him as a long guy in the bullpen to help guard against the workloads of Eovaldi, Snell and Faria -- not to mention to help with those bullpen days, but the situation now is pretty dire.
What about lefty Ryan Yarbrough? He's been a starter throughout his minor-league career. He was 13-6 with a 3.43 ERA, 1.16 WHIP and 159 strikeouts in 157 1/3 innings last year for Triple-A Durham.
Sticking with the 2017 Durham Bulls, right-hander Yonny Chirinos was 12-5 with a 2.74 ERA, 0.98 WHIP and 120 strikeouts in 141 innings last year and was also expected to be part of the Rays' bullpen this season.
Left-hander Anthony Banda was acquired from the Diamondbacks as part of the Steven Souza trade. He was sent to the minors, but he now becomes a possibility here as well, should the Rays not want to mess with who they slated to be the heavy-workload relievers in Andriese, Yarbrough and Chirinos.
Banda, 24, pitched to a 5.96 ERA in 25 2/3 innings last season as a rookie. He also was knocked around in the Pacific Coast League (Triple-A) last season, but had a very good minor-league track record before that and has added a slider to his arsenal this spring.
Hunter Wood, a 24-year-old right-hander, made 31 appearances, including 18 starts, between Double-A and Triple-A last year. He pitched to a 4.60 ERA overall. Righty Chih-Wei Hu was mostly a reliever in Triple-A and the majors last year, but he's been starter in the past in the minors.
They definitely have options, though none seems like a great one. It seems like the best bet would be to grab Yarbrough or Chirinos and just put them in the rotation, going easy on the innings pitched in the early going until they were stretched out. The bullpen will be taxed, so they'll have to be shuffling guys through the minors and DL.
Again, it's pretty much in shambles after three good options to start the rotation. Now the Rays need to prepare for a brutal schedule to start the season (four vs. BOS; two at NYY; three at BOS) with only 60 percent of a rotation. Rough start.