As Spring Training begins, the one trait of the Rays that
diminishes fans’ worries is pitching. Though Mr. No-Hitter Matt Garza was traded to the Chicago Cubs this past off-season, five
pitchers remain: Wade Davis, Jeremy
Hellickson, Jeff Niemann, David Price, and James Shield. The biggest
question remains as what order the pitchers will be pitching. This is what I
David Price: 2010
Stats: 19-6, 2.72 ERA. Price was selected 1st overall in the 2007
Major League Baseball Draft and ever since then, he has become a fan favorite
in pitching. 99.9% of Rays fans remember him recording the final out of the Red
Sox in game 7 of the 2008 American League Championship Game, which led to the
Rays making their first appearance in the World Series. After a shaky 2009 year
as a starting pitcher, Price bounced back in 2010 and was even a Cy Young candidate
(should have won). Price is also a left handed pitcher, one of the best in the
league (behind C. C. Sabathia). Price has shown that he can pitch under
pressure and deserves to be the opening day pitcher after a beautiful 2010
James Shields: 2010
Stats: 13-15, 5.18 ERA. Shields is currently the oldest starting Rays
pitcher and he is not even 30 yet. Shields has been the opening day pitcher
since 2008, but after his miserable
year last year, the torch will PROBABLY be
passed to Price. Shields allowed a MLB
most 34 homeruns last year; not surprising after the Toronto Incident. If several Rays fans have repressed their
memories on what happened on August 7, 2010, I will remind you because unfortunately
I was not able to repress it. That day Shields gave up 6 homeruns to the
Toronto Blue Jays. The reason why he is #2 pitcher is because 1) veteran
pitcher 2) 1 bad year cannot over shadow his other years and 3) Maddon remains loyal
to his players. Hopefully, Shields can demonstrate this Spring Training how he
has turned his life around, though on Sunday (Feb 27) Shields allowed a solo
homerun with 2 outs*flashbacks of 2010 year* I’m rooting for you Shields!
Jeff Niemann: 2010
Stats: 12-10, 4.07 ERA. Niemann stepped on the screen in the year 2009.
After Price’s rookie year was far from what Rays fans thought was going to
happen, Niemann proved that he too is an rookie amazing pitcher. Niemann ended 2009 with an outstanding record (13-6)
and was in discussion for the 2009 AL
Rookie of the Year. (In fact, I even tried bidding for his jersey, until realizing
I’m a poor college student and have no money.) Last year, Niemann started out
with a strong 2010 year before going on the DL half way through the season.
Ever since then, he ended the year losing nearly every game, though looked
promising in the last 2 games. Niemann
is bound to be back to normal, which is why he will be pitching #3 this year.
Wade Davis: 2010 Stats:
12-10 ERA 4.07. Davis barely made the starting roster last year and had a
few shaky starts that had Rays fans calling for his head (o because it so easy pitching
in a professional sport! Haters). Davis proved the doubters wrong, especially
after returning from the DL midseason. After Niemann was having trouble, Davis
was the opposite and showed his best pitching. Davis finished 2010 with 4th
place in AL Rookie of the Year voting and was Top Rookie amongst
Rays, determined by the Tampa Bay chapter of the Baseball’s Writer’s Association.
Davis has a shot at getting to be #3 if he outshines Niemann (or even
Shields) in the next month.
Hellickson: 2010 Stats: 4-0, 3.47 ERA.
At 23, Hellickson is less than 2 years my senior, yet already is making a name
for himself. He was, in 2010, USA Today
Minor League Player of the Year, Triple-A
National Championship MVP, and Baseball
American Minor League All-Star. On August 2, 2010, Hellickson made his
major league debut against the Minnesota Twins. He was amazing and held the Twins
to only 2 runs over 7 innings (I witnessed his first game and kept the game ticket).
Hellickson is currently recovering from a sore hamstring, but he has a lot of
potential; Baseball America has him ranked as #6 Prospect. Now, I
just need to get him to autograph my game ticket.
Even though Matt
Garza will be deeply missed, the 5 starting pitchers left on team show that
the Rays still have a chance to win the A.L. East. Rays are counting on Shields
to make a comeback and Hellickson to live up to his potential. A baseball team
is only as strong as its pitching, which makes defeating the Yankees this year a
possibility. The Yankees’ rotation only contains 2 reliable pitchers (C.C.
Sabathia & Phil Hughes). The other 3 (A.J. Burnett, Ivan Nova, and Freddy
Garcia) will help determine if the Yankees can make it in October. The Rays’ Pitchers will make sure the Rays
will be there.
Sources: (Because plagiarism is bad)