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Inbox: Will Rays replace Snell in rotation?

Beat reporter Bill Chastain answers fans' questions
July 12, 2017

Blake Snell has not been good, but all I hear about is his quality stuff and that his problem is just a matter of trusting his stuff and throwing strikes. Isn't being able to throw strikes something that a pitcher should know how to do before becoming a Major Leaguer?

Blake Snell has not been good, but all I hear about is his quality stuff and that his problem is just a matter of trusting his stuff and throwing strikes. Isn't being able to throw strikes something that a pitcher should know how to do before becoming a Major Leaguer? Why don't the Rays just slip Chase Whitley into the rotation or maybe bring up Brent Honeywell?
-- Frank T., Tampa, Fla.

Yes, Snell has quality stuff, but he's had control issues. And I agree with you, being able to throw strikes seems like a pretty important prerequisite for one's resume before getting to the Major Leagues. The popular belief is that Snell simply doesn't trust his stuff. However, I've also heard from scouts that Snell struggles with repeating his delivery, and that affects his ability to throw strikes. Again, that's a problem you would think would have been adequately addressed before he joined the Rays.
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Whitley has started in the past, so I would assume he could be a possibility. And everything I've heard about Honeywell is that he'll be a big-time Major Leaguer once he arrives (that was a pretty strong performance in the Futures Game). However, he's not on the 40-man roster, which can present some complications, as a vacancy needs to be created in order to add a player.

Of all the top prospects in the Rays' system, who do you like best? I know myself, after all I've read about Willy Adames, he's the guy I can't wait to see. Sounds like they have some nice players coming up through the system.
-- Brad B., St. Petersburg

Adames is a player that all Rays fans should get excited about. As farm director Mitch Lukevics once told me, "Willy has the 'it' factor." He's progressed every year since Tampa Bay acquired him from Detroit in the David Price trade. While I really like Adames, and I believe he will be everything he's forecast to be, the two guys I'm most excited to see are outfielder/first baseman Jake Bauers and right-hander Jaime Schultz. Bauers is a true hitter with power and a good eye. And Schultz is a hard-throwing right-hander, who would probably be with the team already had he not experienced a groin problem.
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What is the latest on Matt Duffy? Any time your team makes a trade, you'd certainly like to see the player, or players, you acquired play. We've only seen Duffy a little. Is he ever going to play again?
-- Dan K., Tampa, Fla.

I talked to Duffy recently, and he seemed happy with the results from the latest operation that removed a calcium deposit from his left heel, which had been the source of a lot of pain. Duffy seemed in good spirits, but there is no timetable at this point. I do think he'll play at some point this season and when he returns, I have no idea what kind of roster shuffling they'll do to accommodate Duffy. Believe me, he's just as frustrated about the situation as anybody else.
Alex Colome has done some good work during his time with the Rays, but he looks like he's spent. Did he just have a little dropoff prior to the All-Star break, or are we going to see him continue his downward spiral in the second half?
-- Randy H., Tampa, Fla.

After saving Thursday night's win over the Red Sox, Colome talked about his recent slide, noting that he feels good, while allowing that every player struggles at times. He went on to say that he has not lost any confidence. Based on the fact that Colome has saved 62 games for the Rays the past two seasons, I've got to believe he'll be fine. And he showed that in his final three appearances before the break.
Everybody seems to be all excited about the prospect of Brendan McKay arriving to the Major Leagues as a position player and as a pitcher. Do you think in this age of specialization that it's possible for a player to pull off what McKay and the Rays seem committed to trying?
-- Bill D., St. Petersburg

McKay was the Rays' No. 1 pick (fourth overall) in the 2017 Draft. A first baseman/pitcher at Louisville, McKay graded out well at both. He likes playing both, so why limit what he does? By allowing McKay to play in the field and pitch for as long as he can, Tampa Bay will find out the best direction for him to head. If he continues to excel at both, why not let him do both, which would give the Rays a modern hybrid. To Tampa Bay's credit, the organization is willing to let McKay see how far he can go with both, and the Rays give the impression they're excited about the possibilities of him being an exception to the rule.
Alex Cobb and Jake Odorizzi don't seem to be themselves this season. I get it with Cobb since he had Tommy John surgery. But Odorizzi has surprised me. He did such great things in the second half of last season that I expected more out of him this season. Your thoughts?
-- Paul J., Orlando, Fla.

Cobb has struggled to find his changeup throughout the first half. The changeup used to be his best pitch prior to the Tommy John surgery. This year, Cobb has the pitch at times, and at other times, it's not working, which has forced him to learn how to be effective using just a fastball-curveball repertoire. Still, I think he's performed fairly well. Sooner or later, Cobb's changeup will return, and he'll be even more effective. As for Odorizzi, he's struggled with his mechanics all season. Despite his struggles, he's remained competitive. As you pointed out, Odorizzi had a great second half in 2016. I wouldn't be surprised to again see him have a great second half.

Bill Chastain has covered the Rays for since 2005.