Main menu


This baseball manager's business isn't as easy as it looks

featured image

st. PETERSBURG — Everyone loves playing a manager. It is one of the real thrills of watching baseball.

Between the pace of the game and the abundance of numbers at your fingertips, there are half a dozen key moments in every game that allow fans at home to declare strategy ahead of a manager’s decision.

Hit and run away? Time to draw a pitcher? Pinch hitter? Is it time for a defensive change? We yell when a tried-and-tested strategy works, but quickly forget how many times we would have been blown in the face.

Tell me, if you were Kevin Cash, what would you do today?

Because the Rays manager faces a dangerous dance of needing to win in the regular season while he cares about preparing for the postseason. You are faced with a choice of what to take responsibility for.

In short, he’s stuck in a no man’s land of impossible choices.

I remember watching the Tigers game on Sunday. It remained an important game in Tampa Bay’s season for a harmless afternoon affair against a non-division opponent.

Rays starter Drew Rasmussen has a short outing with the Tigers on Sunday, but not because of a bad pitch. [ CARLOS OSORIO | AP ]

The Rays went several weeks without winning a single series. Sunday’s result could therefore be the difference between a satisfying 3-1 series win or a disappointing 2-2 split against the bottom-placed team.

With that background in mind, Cash had decided before the game began that starting pitcher Drew Rasmussen would not pitch more than three innings.

Well, you may ask why.

(or you might yell what %$#&?)

The answer is complicated. Rasmussen says he’s 27 years old, but he’s never pitched more than 100 innings in a pro season. He underwent Tommy John surgery midway through his sophomore year of college, and a second Tommy John surgery less than two years later.

Both the Brewers (who drafted him in 2018) and the Rays (who acquired him in 2021) have paid attention to his medical history. As such, Rasmussen had never past 90 innings in any professional season until Sunday. After three finishes against the Tigers, he was 91.1 innings in 2022.

It’s not that the Rays aren’t going to push him to new heights now. He will definitely get past his 100th innings in the coming months, and by the end of the postseason he could be over 130.

But the Rays aren’t keen on the idea of ​​Rasmussen jumping from 89.1 innings last season to over 150 innings this season, and his job now is to avoid having to shut him down during a potential playoff series. We manage quantity.

Need more than box scores?

Need more than box scores?

Subscribe to the free Rays Report newsletter

Columnist John Romano will be sending out the latest Rays insights and analysis, with weekly updates throughout the season.

You are all signed up!

Want a free weekly newsletter added to your inbox? let’s start.

explore all options

And Cash was willing to risk the wrath of the critics in a rather important game against the Tigers, with the Mariners, Orioles and Indians close behind him in the wild card race.

After all, the bullpen pitched brilliantly, the offense came alive in the ninth inning, and the Rays beat the Tigers 7-0 to win the series.

Rays starter Jeffrey Springs' inning is also added.
Rays starter Jeffrey Springs’ inning is also added. [ CARLOS OSORIO | AP ]

But the decision doesn’t end there, and it’s not limited to Rasmussen.

Jeffrey Springs and Corey Kluber have already pitched more innings than in any season since 2018, and Shane McClanahan is one inning short of a career-best new inning.

All three of these starters have seen their ERA rise significantly in recent trips. This could be a fluke or a sign that your arms are getting tired.

So Cash and pitching coach Kyle Snyder will keep the rotation intact for the next eight weeks while trying to secure a wild card while making sure the starters aren’t running in smoke if the Rays reach the postseason. I need to find a way to keep it. October.

There may be help along the way from the casualty list. Yonny Chirinos is throwing again. So is Tyler Glasnow. They’re unlikely to pitch six straight innings at Tropicana Field, but they could work as an opener and give the rotation a break.

Luis Patino is also pitching again at Triple-A Durham, and can provide rotation depth once he’s more in control of command.

And, by the way, the Rays need to pull off all this juggling without burning out the bullpen, which turned out to be a problem in the 2020 postseason.

It worked Sunday in Detroit, but who knows what will happen Tuesday in Milwaukee.

Still, do you think you’ll enjoy being a big league manager?

Contact John Romano at: jromano@tampabay.comFollow @romano_tbtimes.

• • •

Sign up for the Rays Report’s weekly newsletter to get a fresh perspective on the Tampa Bay Rays and other key players from sports columnist John Romano.

Never miss the latest from Bucks, Rays, Lightning, University of Florida Sports and more. Follow sports teams in the Tampa Bay Times. twitter and Facebook.