PORT CHARLOTTE, Fla. -- Starting pitching has long been the straw that stirs the Rays' drink, and this season's collection of starters also has high expectations.
Heading into camp, the Rays have Chris Archer, Jake Odorizzi, Drew Smyly, Matt Moore and Erasmo Ramirez in their rotation. After that group comes Matt Andriese and prospects Blake Snell and Taylor Guerrieri. And don't forget Alex Cobb and Chase Whitley, who should be healed and ready to go by late July or early August. Both underwent Tommy John surgery.
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The question for this group as Rays pitchers and catchers took part in their first workout on Sunday: Can the 2016 starters live up to the high bar established in the past?
"It's not going to be easy," said Archer, who went 12-13 with a 3.23 ERA in 2015. "But we definitely have a lot of depth in Triple-A, and Erasmo really came on strong last year. Matt Moore is one of the most dynamic arms in the game.
"Smyly, ever since he's been a Ray, he's probably made a total of about 25 starts as a Ray, but if you just put those 25 starts versus other people's 25 starts, he's in the elite status. Now the key is having him do that for 30-plus this season. Odorizzi really came on."
"So, yeah, I think there is that possibility [this year's starters can be as good as previous rotations]," Archer said. "We're going to have to put in some work. I mean, it's not going to be easy. There are some things all of us need to get better at for sure. But, I mean, there is definitely that possibility to be one of the best starting staffs that we ever had."