Glasnow named Rays' Opening Day starter

March 17th, 2021

The news came casually on Wednesday morning. Rays manager Kevin Cash called into his office at the Charlotte Sports Park complex in Port Charlotte, Fla., just before Glasnow left to pitch against his former team in Bradonton, and delivered some important information as if it were no big deal at all.

“He just called me in and was like, ‘Hey, you're gonna be Opening Day starter,’” Glasnow said Wednesday afternoon. “And I was like, ‘Yeah, sweet.’ And I went out and pitched.”

The announcement was similarly informal. While answering a question about non-roster pitcher Stetson Allie, another former Pirates prospect, Cash mentioned that the right-hander threw this offseason with Glasnow, who "pounded the table" for the Rays to sign Allie.

"So Tyler not only is going to pitch Opening Day for us, but he's also one of our scouts," Cash said.

The first part of that job description is an honor the Rays believe Glasnow earned based on the way he has pitched for them since coming over, along with Austin Meadows and Shane Baz, in the July 31, 2018, trade for Chris Archer.

Glasnow said he wasn’t worried about where he’d slot into the rotation, noting that he wants to make 30-plus starts this season no matter when the first one falls. But he acknowledged that the assignment is “huge,” “awesome” and “definitely a huge shift” considering where he was in his career -- a former top prospect banished to the Pirates' bullpen -- at the time of the trade.

“Even back then, I would have been like, 'I know at some point I'm gonna figure it out and get it going.' But I think looking back on it now and just the trajectory of how it all happened, definitely it's awesome,” Glasnow said. “Everything that I've gone through from Pittsburgh to here and how much they've helped me, it's just so meaningful. Yeah, it's a good feeling.”

Glasnow admitted he had been operating under the assumption that he would start one of the Rays’ first games of the season. Now he can spend the next few weeks knowing that he’s preparing specifically to pitch -- and hit -- against Miami at Marlins Park on April 1.

"We're excited. I know it's a big deal to pitchers," Cash said. "The way Tyler has thrown the ball the last couple seasons, he deserves the opportunity. … He's a guy that we feel confident should be built up ... to go out there and log innings. From what he did last season, the way he competed in the postseason, kind of all of the above."

Cash specifically cited Glasnow's effort pitching on short rest in Game 5 of the American League Division Series, when he recorded eight outs without giving up a hit or a run in the Rays' 2-1 win over the Yankees. In 34 regular-season starts with Tampa Bay over the past three years, the 6-foot-8 right-hander has put together a 3.32 ERA with 231 strikeouts in 173 2/3 innings.

Glasnow is hoping to take another step forward this season, implementing a new slider that he threw 25 times, according to Statcast, while working four innings and striking out seven to start the Rays’ 10-9 win over the Pirates on Wednesday at LECOM Park. There’s no denying that Glasnow has top-of-the-rotation stuff. Now, he’ll officially be atop Tampa Bay’s rotation.

“That's huge. I feel like that's something he's worked toward his whole career,” Meadows said. “Being able to be that No. 1 starter, that's a huge accomplishment. It's so fun to watch him grow, and he's been incredible for us the past two years and this Spring Training so far. He's just so dominant, and it's so fun to watch. I'm glad he's on our side. I'm glad I'm not in the box facing him, because he's pretty nasty.”

This will be the first Opening Day start of Glasnow's career and his fifth consecutive appearance on an Opening Day roster. He started the Rays’ fourth game last year and the third game in 2019, and he opened the ’18 season in the Pirates’ bullpen after starting their sixth game in ’17. This assignment came as no surprise after Tampa Bay parted ways this offseason with veteran starters Charlie Morton (option declined, signed with the Braves) and Blake Snell (traded to the Padres).

Cash declined to name the rest of his rotation, which is expected to include Ryan Yarbrough, Michael Wacha, Rich Hill and Archer in some order. Glasnow, though, will join the recent ranks of Morton (2020), Snell ('19), Archer ('15-18), David Price ('11, ’13-14), James Shields ('08-10, ’12) and Scott Kazmir ('06-07) as Tampa Bay’s Opening Day starters.

"If you look at the guys that have [pitched on Opening Day] here in the past, they've had some pretty good pitchers do it [who had] really good careers," Cash said. "There's some really good pitchers that have been in this organization alone that have opportunities to pitch Opening Day and just be successful. No added pressure to Tyler, but I'm sure he would take a lot of those guys' careers that we mentioned."