The Tampa Bay Rays will welcome Jake Odorizzi back to the rotation on May 1st. Odorizzi left his last start on April 15th in Boston, with tightness in his right hamstring. It was a disappointing turn of events for Odorizzi and the Rays as he had just come off an impressive two-hit six-inning performance against the Toronto Blue Jays.
Since the injury occurred to his lower body, the Ray’s training staff has been able to keep Odorizzi’s arm fresh during the two-week period he has been shelved with the hammy issue. One aspect of his last full start was the 9 ground ball outs that Odorizzi recorded against the Jay’s power-laden lineup. It was a profound improvement over the first start of the season against the Yankees.
Odorizzi was not only taken out of the park twice in that April 4th opener, but 17 times he his pitches were taken out of the infield. While Odorizzi has posted moderately encouraging strikeout numbers during his career – 524 K’s in a total of 575 innings at the Major League level – he has seen relative success when he can keep the ball down in the strike zone. In each of the first two full starts, he also managed to finish 6 full innings using just over 100 pitches each time.
Odorizzi’s most successful stints in his career have all come when he pitches efficiently. Without an imposing lineup of hitters to put up a lot of runs, it’s going to be crucial for Tampa Bay to pitch efficiently. When any of the Ray’s top 5 starters miss a beat, that will put a burden on a suspect bullpen. They will not only have to make spot starts in the event of injury, but also work more innings when the starters cannot efficiently navigate their way into the late innings.
Erasmo Ramirez filled in admirably in two spot starts, taking Odorizzi’s turn in the rotation, but Ramirez is usually only good for 50 to 60 pitches, so without Odorizzi the middle relievers in the Ray’s bullpen have to carry an extra load. On Monday, the Rays will optimistically hope for the type of strong performance from Odorizzi, which was the reason why they traded him away from the Kansas City Royals in 2012. If the Ray’s pitching staff doesn’t overachieve in 2017, it could make for a long season at The Trop.