MLB notebook: Rays attempting 4-man rotation in 2018

The Tampa Bay Rays will attempt to use a four-man rotation throughout the 2018 season, manager Kevin Cash told reporters Wednesday morning. The plan will be to have Chris Archer, Blake Snell, Nathan Eovaldi and Jake Faria pitch in typical starter roles while every fifth day will be a “bullpen day,” where multiple relief pitchers go through the order once.

“Our plan, we’re not going to five,” Cash said. “We’re going to try to stay at four. We’re going to have some bullpen days in there. We’re going to try and do that for a long period of time. We’re going to learn a lot in the first six weeks.”

The Rays had originally planned to use a four-man rotation to begin the season when they have more days off. But Cash is now looking to keep that strategy in place for the duration of the year.

Several pitchers on the Rays’ 40-man depth chart that are lined up for bullpen roles despite major league starting experience include Matt Andriese, Anthony Banda, Yonny Chirinos and Austin Pruitt. The Rays could also lean on call-ups from Triple-A more often in order to cycle in fresh arms.

–Rays right-hander Jose De Leon, who was acquired from the Los Angeles Dodgers last year in the Logan Forsythe trade, has been diagnosed with a torn ulnar collateral ligament in his throwing elbow, the team announced. De Leon will see Dr. James Andrews for a second opinion — the same path Tampa Bay top prospect Brent Honeywell took on his way to needing Tommy John surgery last month.

De Leon, 25, was once considered a consensus top-30 prospect in all of baseball and is still viewed as a top-10 prospect in the Rays’ system. His stock took a hit in 2017, as he managed to pitch in only 10 games (eight starts) at the minor league level, spending multiple stints on the disabled list for various injuries, including two to his arm.

In those 10 outings, De Leon produced a 3.05 ERA and struck out 44 in 38 1/3 innings. He joined the Rays for one game in May, allowing three earned runs on four hits in 2 2/3 innings out of the bullpen. De Leon made two appearances for the Rays this spring, last pitching March 3.

–The Seattle Mariners and outfielder Ichiro Suzuki finalized a one-year contract.

Suzuki, 44, spent his first 11 major league seasons with the Mariners, where he was the American League Rookie of the Year and MVP in 2001. He was traded to the New York Yankees in 2012, played parts of three seasons with the Yankees and then spent three seasons with the Miami Marlins.

Seattle has concerns about depth in the outfield following a strained oblique muscle injury to Ben Gamel, who is expected to miss the start of the regular season. In addition, Mitch Haniger is limited by a hand injury and Guillermo Heredia is working his way back from offseason shoulder surgery.

–Tim Lincecum is officially a member of the Texas Rangers. The two-time Cy Young Award winner attempting to come back from a layoff will compete for a job in the bullpen, general manager Jon Daniels confirmed.

Lincecum, 33, has started 270 of his 278 games in the major leagues, though the possibility of pitching the ninth inning intrigued him.

“They see that,” Lincecum told reporters. “I feel like I could do that. I’ve done that in the Cape [Cod League] and at the college level. It’s going to be, obviously, different, but I feel like I could tap into that mentality. Right now, I’m just trying to see where I fit on this team. The idea was to go to a bullpen role because I felt like that’s what would be best for the way I am right now and at this point in my career.”

–Veteran pitcher Mike Pelfrey is retiring from professional baseball to become a volunteer assistant coach at Division II Newman University in Wichita, Kan., the school announced on its website.

Pelfrey was 68-103 with a 4.68 ERA in 275 games in a 12-year major league career. The 34-year-old right-hander was 3-12 with a 5.93 ERA in 34 games (21 starts) for the Chicago White Sox last season.

Pelfrey grew up in Wichita and was a first-round selection out of Wichita State by the New York Mets in 2005.

–The Toronto Blue Jays announced the signing of former closer Tyler Clippard to a minor league contract with an invite to major league spring training.

Clippard, 33, pitched in the majors for three teams last season, posting a 2-8 record and 4.77 ERA in 67 games. He began the year with the New York Yankees before being traded in July to the Chicago White Sox, who then flipped him to the Houston Astros a month later. The right-hander was left off the Astros’ postseason roster after registering a 6.43 ERA in 16 games with Houston.

Last season was Clippard’s worst in the majors as a reliever. He excelled coming out of the bullpen for the Washington Nationals from 2009-14, twice being named an All-Star in that span and racking up 32 saves in 2012.

–Field Level Media

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