SARASOTA — After postponing the announcement for days because he and pitching coach Jim Hickey wanted to look at early-season matchups, Rays manager Joe Maddon finally announced the order of the rotation before Thursday night’s 4-3 victory against the Orioles at Ed Smith Stadium.
It is LHP David Price followed by RHP Alex Cobb, LHP Matt Moore, RHP Chris Archer and RHP Jake Odorizzi.
Not really a surprise, since that’s how the rotation lined up all spring.
“We looked at a whole bunch of different things and just felt that playing it straight up was going to be fine,” Maddon said. “The schedule didn’t show anything one way or the other, so we’re playing it straight up.”
Maddon said they discussed splitting Price and Cobb because those two are expected to pitch deeper into games. That would help break up what could be heavy bullpen days with Moore, Archer and Odorizzi. But Maddon said they decided to break up the lefties with Cobb.
“I think it’s an easy get to put Cobb between those two,” Maddon said.
Speaking of Cobb ...
Cobb pitched four innings against the Orioles in his final tune-up before Tuesday, when he faces the Blue Jays in the second game of the regular season.
He allowed a run on three hits and hit a batter, striking DH Nelson Cruz in the head with a curveball. Cobb said he was uncomfortable in the first inning, when he allowed a run on a single, double and ground out.
After a solid spring, Cobb said he was glad to have a little trouble on the mound.
“I love when you face a little bit of adversity with yourself, because it really makes you work on your mental side and really think about what you’re doing,” he said. “When things are coming easy, you coast through stuff. When things aren’t coming as easy, you really focus on what’s the problem and you fix it and you keep it in your memory bank.”
As for hitting Cruz, Cobb said his front foot slipped while throwing a curveball and the pitch got away. Cruz left the game, walking off the field unassisted.
“I don’t think any pitcher wants to hit a guy in the head,” Cobb said. “It was a curveball. If anything, any pitch you can hit him with, you prefer it to be that. It still stinks to see a guy go down like that. I hear he’s OK, so that’s good.
And the bullpen ...
Maddon said he’s not ready to announce who earned the final two spots in the bullpen, although there appears to be only two candidates — RHP Brandon Gomes and RHP Josh Lueke.
“Just write what you think,” Maddon said. “The guys that you think are going to be on the team probably are.”
That would be Gomes and Lueke.
The Rays won’t make it official until they decide what to do with RHP Juan Carlos Oviedo, who will not make the Opening Day rotation because he’s only been in camp for two weeks. The Rays can place Oviedo on the disabled list or find another means to take him off the 25-man roster.
Catchers of the day
The Rays finish their Grapefruit League schedule today in Lakeland against the Tigers.
Maddon said both catchers will start the game, with Jose Molina behind the plate and Ryan Hanigan at DH. Molina will bat second in an effort to get him as many at-bats as possible. Hanigan will go behind the plate after Molina, and Maddon will pinch hit for the pitcher after that.
Maddon is doing this because neither catcher will travel Saturday to Montgomery, Ala., for a game against the Double-A Biscuits. Molina and Hanigan will remain at the Trop to work with the pitchers.
3B Evan Longoria hit his third home run of the spring Thursday. ... 1B James Loney doubled home a run to give him 14 RBIs this spring. ... RF Wil Myers, who left Wednesday’s game after being struck on the left leg with a pitch, is OK. He is scheduled to start and hit cleanup today against the Tigers ... Minor-league OF Spencer Edwards impressed Maddon with his play Wednesday, hitting the cutoff man with the throw from center to help nail a base runner at third and scoring from first on a single. “I don’t think there is anyone else in the organization who could have done that,” Maddon said of the base running. ... With Thursday’s win, the Rays clinched the Grapefruit League title.