PORT CHARLOTTE, Fla. -- The back-end duo of Alex Colome and Xavier Cedeno made its Spring Training debut on Wednesday afternoon at Charlotte Sports Park.
Each of the relivers pitched an inning in the Rays' 5-1 loss to the Blue Jays. Cedeno pitched a scoreless sixth, recording one hit and two strikeouts, while Colome struck out one, walked one, and gave up a run on Casey Kotchman's RBI groundout in the seventh.
"[They] will get to a point where Colome will separate himself a little bit and add more than an inning," Rays manager Kevin Cash said. "Cedeno for the most part will stay right at an inning throughout the course of spring."
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The pair has not been held back because of anything physical, and their bullpens leading into Wednesday's game have been "really good" according to Cash. The Rays simply wanted to wait for the pair to begin their respective seasons, hoping that a later start will enable them to stay fresher deeper into the regular season.
"I'm just here to play baseball and whatever they want me to do, I'll just follow it," Cedeno said. "They know I want to be here and help the team win."
Colome said he's fine with the plan, too, noting that he only needs approximately eight outings to be ready for the season.
Cash said both will play "huge roles" this season.
"Obviously you've got Box in the ninth and those two guys giving us the versatility that we can kind of deploy them in big situations," Cash said.
Colome began the 2015 season in the starting rotation, where went 3-4 with a 4.70 ERA in 13 starts. Once he settled into a bullpen role in early July, he evolved into a late-inning weapon for the Rays. In 30 relief appearances, Colome went 5-1 with a 2.66 ERA, recording 44 strikeouts in 40 2/3 innings with zero home runs allowed.
Over a two-month span of 21 appearances from mid-July to mid-September, Colome recorded a 0.29 ERA, yielding just 18 hits and five walks while striking out 34 and going 3-0 with seven holds.
Cedeno allowed only four of 30 inherited runners to score last season, tying him with Oakland's Fernando Rodriguez for the best ratio in the American League. Only 10 AL lefties appeared in more games than Cedeno. He finished the season at 4-1 with a 2.09 ERA and a save in 61 appearances.
The Rays acquired Cedeno from the Dodgers for cash considerations on April 27. Cash said he did not know anything about him at the time other than the front office liked him.
"To X's credit, he came in and just continued to get outs," Cash said. "It didn't matter who was up there, he kept getting outs. We have all the confidence in the world in him getting righties out. But you have to balance how much you have to use him in that role.
"Would it be better just to save him? Come get the lefty out, pull him out so he's ready to go the next day? That will be kind of an ongoing in-season balance that we'll try to figure out."
Cash went further by noting that "If we're pulling X, very rarely is it due to a lack of confidence that there's a better guy."
According to Cash, Cedeno went on to become a leader in the bullpen.
"The way he carries himself, he doesn't say boo, but just kind of the way he leads by example," Cash said. "His little private conversations he has with pitchers seem to go a long way."
Cash said Colome came on strong following a poor outing against the Royals on July 7. Pitching coach Jim Hickey and bullpen coach Stan Boroski pointed him in the right direction, after which Colome thrived.
"Obviously the Houston game was unbelievable," said Cash referencing the eighth inning of the Rays Aug. 19 game when Colome struck out swinging in order: Jose Altuve, Marwin Gonzalez and Carlos Correa. "He went in there and faced three really good hitters. And I think he threw 10 or 11 pitches."
Cash said Colome and Cedeno can be counted on to pitch any time from the sixth inning on this season.