FORT MYERS — Tampa Bay Rays LHP Cesar Ramos has suddenly and mysteriously moved into the competition for the fifth spot in the rotation, turning what was a two-man competition between RHP Jake Odorizzi and LHP Erik Bedard into a three-man race.
Ramos, who has been the long man in the Rays bullpen since joining the organization in 2011, starts this afternoon against the visiting Yankees.
Manager Joe Maddon said Ramos had talked to executive VP of baseball operations Andrew Friedman during the offseason about receiving the opportunity to start. Friedman said that wasn't the case, but there were internal discussions this winter about Ramos as a starter.
Neither Friedman nor Maddon mentioned Ramos when discussing candidates to replace RHP Jeremy Hellickson (elbow surgery) for the first two months of the regular season.
“I don't know how things are going to play out,” Friedman said. “We're going to stretch him out and get a feel for where he slots among the fifth pitcher candidates to the extent that it works out well, that's obviously a great outcome, and to the extent it doesn't, there's not really much downside.
“And he will be stretched out, which can only help when we get to the beginning of the season.”
Friedman said Ramos has “a bucketful of average to above average pitches.” Ramos was a starter in the San Diego organization and made two starts during his rookie season in 2009. The Rays used him exclusively in the bullpen, because Ramos told them he was uncomfortable being moved between the rotation and the bullpen. His lone start with the Rays came in 2012 when the Rays used relievers against the Phillies during the second game of a doubleheader.
Because he has been successful in long relief, Maddon thinks Ramos could handle going back to the bullpen if he doesn't earn the spot in the rotation.
“Furthermore, we think he's capable of pitching five-plus innings if he has to with all the weapons that he has,” Maddon said.
A change for Archer
RHP Chris Archer used his first start of the spring to work on his change-up during his two innings Tuesday against the Red Sox at JetBlue Park.
Archer faced only six batters and threw 21 pitches (15 strikes) during his two innings in the Rays' 8-0 victory.
“It was exactly what I wanted,” Archer said. “I threw them to lefties and righties. They were down in the strike zone. One was a ball, but it was still where I wanted it, so overall, I think for Game 1, mission accomplished.”
Archer used a back-door slider to get DH David Ortiz looking at a called third strike to end the first inning. Archer said the pitch was exactly how he visualized it while warming up in the bullpen.
“Nothing is like executing it in the game to one of the best hitters of all time, so it does get me excited,” Archer said.
Run, Jose, run
C Jose Molina had quite the day on the bases, scoring from first on LF David DeJesus' second-inning triple. In the fifth inning, Molina legged out a double down the right-field line and scored from second on a double to center by SS Hak-Ju Lee.
“We definitely played in the right ballpark for that to occur,” Maddon said, noting the park is 420 feet to center field. “That can't happen anywhere. So the people here (Tuesday) really should feel fortunate to see J-Mo score on a ball in the gap from first base. It's equally as rare sometimes from second base.”
When asked about his base running, Molina said, “Let's talk about something else.”
The Rays signed RHP Sergio Perez to a minor-league contract. Perez, 29, played in the Houston and Oakland organizations, reaching Triple A. He was the closer on the 2006 Division II national champion University of Tampa team. ... LHP Mike Montgomery joined Archer as the only pitchers to throw two innings this spring. Montgomery allowed a hit and struck out one in his two innings. ... 1B James Loney and 2B Sean Rodriguez both homered. ... SS Yunel Escobar was 0-for-2 after getting hits in his first four at-bats this spring. ... 2B Ben Zobrist said his back felt fine after playing Monday for the first time this spring.