Inbox: Will Rays keep pitching strategy in '19?

Beat reporter Bill Chastain answers questions from fans

August 27th, 2018
Tampa Bay Rays manager Kevin Cash during the first inning of a baseball game against the Boston Red Sox Saturday, Aug. 25, 2018, in St. Petersburg, Fla. (AP Photo/Chris O'Meara)Chris O'Meara/AP

I get that the remainder of the season is most likely an opportunity for these young players to work on things for next season. But from a pitching standpoint, are we going into next season with only two, maybe three starters ready to go? This rotation thing was fun for a bit, but nothing beats having pitchers who are settled in and ready to go six or seven innings.
-- Shawn J., Montgomery, Ala.

Heading into this season, the Rays were going with four starters and a "bullpen day." Circumstances changed to where Tampa Bay began using an "opener" rather than a starter. The Rays have not yet stated their intentions for next season, but I think at the very least, you'll see and starting. They have a group of starters recovering from Tommy John surgery -- , and . In addition, , and could become starters. We'll just have to wait and see.
:: Submit a question to the Rays Inbox ::
This year I have absolutely loved watching utility man Joey Wendle play. But I'm worried that next year, he won't have a job with D-Rob returning and an already crowded infield. What do you think the Rays' plans are for Wendle?
-- Sam H., Pasadena, Calif.

Wendle has been a good find for the Rays. In addition, , aka "D-Rob," proved he belonged as well. I think both will be on the roster next season, and both will contribute -- particularly since they each can play multiple positions, giving manager Kevin Cash roster flexibility.
Why do so many people think that the Rays' use of an opening pitcher is strange? Doesn't it make sense to help a fourth or fifth starter by having a good bullpen arm handling the top of the order at the beginning of the game? I think it's a smart strategy.
-- Josh R., Chevy Chase, Md.

I do believe the Rays would agree with your opinion. The sky didn't fall after Tampa Bay employed its strategy. While the thinking is a little outside of the box, the Rays' decision-makers have seemingly come across a strategy that gives them a better chance to win.
Looking to the future, which prospects are you high on? I really like Wander Franco and Brendan McKay. Looking at the team's farm system, I believe they will have a sustained run at the top of the division.
-- Dan F., Tampa, Fla.

While Franco and McKay are said to be quality prospects, I have not seen either play, so I'll reserve judgement. Of the guys who are in the farm system that I've seen play, I like outfielders Jesus Sanchez and Joshua Lowe, along with first baseman Joe McCarthy. As with all prospects, they will drive the train for their arrival to the Major Leagues.
I've noticed that McKay's pitching stats seem to be better than his hitting stats. Is it time to pull the plug on the idea that he can pitch and play a position?
-- Nick R., Tampa, Fla.

I don't think that's going to happen right now. I think everybody expected either McKay's offense or his pitching to be ahead of the other at some point. From everything the Rays have said, they are willing to let this play out.