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Pitching staff hoping for a rebound season in ’17.

After an uncharacteristic 2016, the Rays arms hope to bounce back.

Once upon a time, the Rays were known around the league for their “pitching and defense.” That mantra played a huge part in their division championships and playoff runs under Joe Maddon. In 2016, however, in Kevin Cash’s second year at the helm – the Rays pitchers saw one of their roughest years as a staff in a long time. Especially in all the years under pitching coach Jim Hickey since 2006.

On Wednesday, the Seattle Mariners nabbed lefty Drew Smyly and his 32 home runs given up in 2016 away from the Rays in a trade that brought in young outfielder Mallex Smith and a couple of promising prospects. So how will losing Smyly change the landscape of the rotation? Let’s take a look.

RHP Chris Archer – He had a historically bad 2016, losing 19 games which was the most in all of baseball. However, most of his struggles came before the All-Star break and he became much more Archer-esk from that point on. If the Rays prized righty can keep the ball in the park more in 2017 (allowed a career-high 30 HR in ’16) and continue to punch guys out with that devastating slider – he’ll be back in the Cy Young buzz that most people expect year in and year out.

LHP Blake Snell – The 24-year old will break camp in his first Opening Day rotation after having a very solid rookie campaign in 2016. Snell showed he could be near unhittable at times but also struggled with command (51 BB in 89 IP). Snell keeps the ball in the park and counts heavily on his defense to get him out of jams – which they did often last year. Snell has the ability and the stuff to be one of the better lefties in the game.

RHP Jake Odorizzi – It would be hard to argue that Odo was the most consistent arm in the rotation all season. Had he gotten more run support, his stats would have shown much more than the 10-6 3.69 ERA in 33 starts that he finished the year with. He also pitched a career-high 187.2 innings and is no doubt on his way to his first 200+ inning season in 2017.

RHP Alex Cobb – He’s healthy and will get a full spring training in for the first time since 2015. Cobber struggled in his return from Tommy John at the end of last season especially in his final two appearances where he gave up 15 earned runs in just 4.1 innings of work against the Yankees and White Sox. I expect Cobb to get closer to the pitcher that was the ace of this staff before his injury and be a solid middle of the rotation arm in his final year of control with the Rays.

RHP Matt Andriese – Though he seemed to be more effective out of the bullpen last season, Andriese was very serviceable in the rotation when called on. He started 19 games in 2016 and pitched to a 7-7 record and a 4.80 ERA including beginning the season 6-0 before losing his first game on June 25 to Baltimore.

The bullpen gets a bit more tricky to determine and is the last hole in this Rays roster that needs to be pieced together. It’s doubtful they’ll bring in any of the remaining “big” names left on the market so it’s safe to say fans can expect a lot of familiar faces from last year between the MLB-level guys and some young faces that came up late in the season.

RHP Erasmo Ramirez – Another who could spot start and be successful from the ‘pen. Early in 2016, he was the talk of the town and dominated every time he was called upon be it in a setup role or to get out of a jam or even to eat up an inning or two. He’s a very versatile arm that can help this team in any way they’d need him to – and do it with a smile on his face.

RHP Chase Whitley – Could very well crack the rotation depending on the spring he has. However he played in just five games last season after recovering from Tommy John surgery making just one start in that time. Whitley has good stuff and could be a very dangerous asset in the bullpen to eat up some innings if needed.

LHP Xavier Cedeno – Returning for his third year with the Rays as a “lefty specialist.” Cedeno put together another impressive year in ’16 appearing in 54 games with 43 strikeouts in 41 innings.

RHP Danny Farquhar – Had a rough first half of the season only to rebound very nicely after the All Star break, pitching to a 1.46 ERA in 24 appearances out of the bullpen.

RHP Ryan Garton – All in all had a very solid rookie campaign with the Rays in ’16. Ate up innings when they needed him to and came in for a key out when asked, as well. It would be nice to see Garton crack the Opening Day roster.

RHP Brad Boxberger – If he can put together a full, healthy season he could be deadly as a setup man. He’s just a couple years removed from leading the AL in saves, himself.

RHP Alex Colome – The Rays lone All Star last season should have himself another stellar year closing out games in 2017.

There will most likely be another arm or two thrown into this mix. Kevin Cash may want a second lefty option and if that is the case, Enny Romero could be back if he puts together a solid spring. There’s also Justin Marks and Dana Eveland as southpaw options. Another arm who came up in September and had some good moments was knuckleballer Eddie Gamboa who has a shot to make the roster.

Other names being tossed around as outside shots to make the team are RHPs Ryne Stanek and Jaime Schultz. While Schultz has been a starter his whole career, he could prove to be an asset out of the bullpen if he can make the team. Stanek has versatility as both a starter and reliever so that could also prove useful if he manages to make the team out of camp.

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