ST. PETERSBURG -- Jake Odorizzi made an unexpected exit from Friday's 7-0 win against the Orioles, leaving the mound with right knee soreness before the start of the fifth inning.
The Rays' right-hander was taking warmups when he signaled to the team's dugout, bringing out manager Kevin Cash. Cash decided to lift Odorizzi for precautionary reasons, wanting to keep his pitcher healthy heading into the offseason.
"Maybe fault me for being overly cautious at this point of the season for him and a lot of the guys," Cash said. "Just thought it was best to get him out of the game at that point."
The initial tweak occurred in the top of the fourth, Odorizzi said, when he was pitching to Chris Davis. Odorizzi returned to the dugout after striking Davis out and had to sit for a while as the Rays scored two runs and sent seven batters to the plate.
Odorizzi tried to stay loose in the dugout, but the soreness persisted during his warmups, and at that point, it wasn't worth injuring the knee further knowing the Rays have already been eliminated from the playoffs.
"I think I could have pitched through it in different circumstances, but I just wanted to be smart about it," Odorizzi said. "We aren't playing for anything right now, which is unfortunate, but I think in other circumstances I would have been able to push through it."
No one had been preparing in the bullpen when Odorizzi left the game, as he had only thrown 53 pitches and not allowed any runs. Brad Boxberger was summoned to take over in relief, and he threw the first of five scoreless innings by the Tampa Bay bullpen.
Odorizzi has often experienced difficulties this season, including prolonged stretches of short starts and a disabled-list stint created by a back strain. But Odorizzi had been in the midst of a strong September. In 26 1/3 innings this month, Odorizzi allowed just 10 hits and three earned runs, and twice carried no-hitters through at least five innings.
"The past five to six starts were probably the best I've thrown the ball, maybe in my career here," Odorizzi said. "[Pitching coach Jim Hickey] has told me that these last couple of starts. I'm feeling good. Everything was healthy going into [tonight]. I just didn't want to spoil it by going out and pushing myself for something that could have been a lingering issue. Who knows what would have happened?
"I'm very happy with the way I've finished, throwing the way I'm capable of and going into the offseason with confidence."