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News » Tampa Bay Rays Inside Pitch 2009-03-04

Tampa Bay Rays Inside Pitch 2009-03-04

Tampa Bay Rays Inside Pitch 2009-03-04
The battle for the fifth starter's spot might have taken an unexpected turn already.

Coming into camp, it seemed fairly clear: Unless rookie sensation David Price could absolutely, positively convince the Rays he was ready for full-time duty in the rotation with zero negative effects on his development, it would be a choice of Jason Hammel, Jeff Niemann or Mitch Talbot.

And given that it seemed less than likely Price would be able to convince them, and given that Talbot still has minor league options remaining, it appeared to be a battle between the other two right-handers who are both out of options, Hammel and Niemann.

But then Carlos Hernandez emerged on the scene.

Rays officials were intrigued by what they heard about the 28-year-old former Astros starter, who hasn't pitched in the majors since 2004 as the result of three shoulder surgeries and who made a very under-the-radar return last summer with their Class A team.

And they were flat-out impressed after watching his early spring bullpen sessions as well as the focus and determination he has shown, and then they raved after his strong effort in the exhibition opener.

"He came here to make the team, I know that," manager Joe Maddon said.

Because of Hernandez's health concerns, the Rays are going to want to see him throughout the spring before making any decisions. Hammel has shown he can handle the long-relief role, and the Rays are talking openly about using Niemann in the bullpen because they know how intimidating a 6-foot-9 reliever can be.

Author:Fox Sports
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Added: March 4, 2009

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