Rays counting on rebounds, healthy returns in 2016

February 8th, 2016

ST. PETERSBURG -- Injuries can derail a season. Every team has them, but few teams endured the number of injuries the Rays incurred in 2015.

Twenty-one players logged a total of 26 stints on the disabled list last season, including four of the team's five starting pitchers.

Now, the Rays are hoping to see healthy seasons from some of those players. Tampa Bay finished six games out of a postseason berth in 2015, despite making 145 roster moves. Here are some of the players the Rays hope can rebound in '16:

LF Desmond Jennings: He spent most of 2015 on the disabled list, due to problems with his left knee. After playing briefly at the beginning of the season, Jennings went on the DL before rejoining the club in August only to head back to the DL in late August due to a bruised left knee. His season finally came to a close, due to a tooth infection.

Jennings finished the 2015 campaign with a .268 batting average, one home run and seven RBIs in 28 games.

"You know, [it] can't go anywhere but up at this point, hopefully," said Jennings. "I don't know how much lower you can go from here. It is what it is."

Jennings will be a part of a crowded Rays outfield, as well as the highest-paid member of the group at $3.3 million. His salary and his 2015 season will make it tough to trade him. On the positive side, Tampa Bay likes to have Jennings in the lineup when he's healthy. He brings speed and power and plays solid defense.

1B James Loney: Unless the Rays find a suitor for Loney, the veteran will return at first base for a fourth season. He has one season remaining on his contract, which will pay him $8 million. That number will make Loney difficult to trade. Chances are, that could end up being a good thing, though.

After averaging 156 games over his previous seven seasons, Loney made two trips to the DL in 2015 and played in just 104 games, his fewest since '07. That left him with a .280 average, four home runs and 32 RBIs.

How quickly everyone forgets Loney's consistency when he's not in the lineup. Though he doesn't hit home runs, he's a tough out and he's an above-average fielder.

RHP Danny Farquhar: He came to the Rays as part of the six-player deal that sent Nathan Karns to the Mariners. Farquhar went 1-8 with a 5.12 ERA in 43 appearances spanning five stints with Seattle in 2015. After pitching to a 6.23 ERA in 25 appearances before the All-Star break, he registered a 3.48 ERA in 18 games in the second half. Farquhar has a career 3.96 ERA over parts of four seasons in the Major Leagues, including 16 saves in '13 to lead American League rookies.

The Rays hope Farquhar can get back on track to become a fixture in their bullpen.

IF Nick Franklin: He spent two stints with the Rays in 2015, hitting .158 with three home runs and seven RBIs in 44 games. Tampa Bay remains optimistic that Franklin is more the player he showed he was at Triple-A Durham, where he hit .266 with 11 home runs and 30 RBIs in 57 games last season.

Franklin began last season on the disabled list with a left oblique strain. That caused him to miss more than a month and seemed to set the tone for a frustrating season.

LHP Drew Smyly: He missed 105 games during the 2015 season due to left shoulder issues. Smyly began the season on the disabled list with left shoulder tendinitis, returned April 24 and made three starts before returning to the DL with left shoulder soreness on May 9. He returned for good on Aug. 16.

Smyly went 5-2 with a 3.11 ERA in 12 starts in 2015. Since joining the Rays via a July 31, 2014, trade with the Tigers, he has gone 8-3 with a 2.52 ERA in 19 starts for Tampa Bay.

LHP Matt Moore: He returned to the Rays in 2015 after having his '14 ended by Tommy John surgery. Moore spent the first three months of the season rehabbing from his surgery and, after a five-start Minor League rehab assignment, made his first start for Tampa Bay on July 2. After going 1-3 with an 8.78 ERA in six starts, he was optioned to Durham on Aug. 3. Moore returned for the final month of the season and finished strong, going 2-1 with a 2.97 ERA in six starts.

Moore's strong finish has the team optimistic he can pick up in 2016 where he left off in September.

RHP Alex Cobb: He underwent season-ending Tommy John surgery in May and did not pitch in 2015. Looking forward to '16, Cobb should be back with the team by August. Such a return would provide a big lift to the Rays if he's anything close to the pitcher he was prior to his injury.