Make us your home page
Instagram

Get the quickest, smartest news, analysis and photos from the Bucs game emailed to you shortly after the final whistle.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Hernandez over Niemann for Rays rotation

ST. PETERSBURG — As difficult as the decision supposedly was, the Rays' reasons for picking Roberto Hernandez to fill out their rotation, and then slotting him third, sounded pretty straightforward.

Simply, they think he can pitch better, and pitch more, than Jeff Niemann, who, while disappointed, will work out of the bullpen in long relief and continue to work on increasing velocity.

Though Hernandez's spring 5.33 ERA didn't look good — and he is 33-51, 5.06 over the past five seasons with Cleveland — Rays manager Joe Maddon said they liked a lot of what they saw.

"What he's shown is he's getting close, stuff-wise, to what he had been several years ago when he almost won a Cy Young (in 2007)," Maddon said. "The velocity's been good. The movement on the pitches has been good. The changeup has been outstanding. Slider's been good. Everything's been good. The ball's been on the ground. Pretty big, strong guy that you think can suck up some innings. So all those things."

The potential to log innings was a big part of the appeal and also the main reason Hernandez was dropped into the third slot, providing some cushion for the bullpen between No. 2 starter Jeremy Hellickson and No. 4 Matt Moore, who haven't done as well working deep into games. David Price is the ace and Alex Cobb the No. 5, the order set based on matchups through the first month.

Also enticing, Maddon said, is having Hernandez burying his sinker with the Rays' smooth-fielding — and properly positioned — infielders behind him.

"We think it could be kind of interesting to see that in a posi­tive way," Maddon said. "And I believe he's going to keep getting better, too. Get him out there consistently and getting his confidence going and getting him used to being here, I think all that stuff's going to matter."

Hernandez, 32, said he was "very, very happy" with the decision. Having missed most of last season after being arrested on identity fraud issues in the Dominican Republic, the former Fausto Carmona signed a one-year deal for $3.25 million with the hopes of winning a spot in the rotation and re-establishing himself. He will be the first free agent signee to start for the Rays since Hideo Nomo in July 2005.

"I came here to work hard," Hernandez said. "I feel very close. I want to have the same year I had in 2007 (19-8, 3.06). I feel great. This is a good spot for me."

Niemann, 30, was disappointed and a bit frustrated with the decision after a strong spring (2.92 ERA) following a lost 2012 season marred by a broken leg and then shoulder inflammation.

"I felt like we presented a pretty good case, and you can look at my past and know what we're capable of doing," Niemann said. "This spring, we just did what we could, and the chips fell where they fell. I couldn't have done anything else to put myself in a better spot. It's just where we are."

Though Niemann pitched effectively, and at times impressively, this spring, he still showed effects of the shoulder issues that sidelined him at the end of last season as his fastball was clocked mostly at 86-87 mph, a few ticks below his usual velocity.

"We think he needs to continue to build up some arm strength," Maddon said.

"Pitched really well. Everything was in good order. We're a little bit … I don't want to say concerned, but we believe there's more in there velocity-wise. If we give him more time, you're eventually going to see that come back to him. That was it."

As a result, Niemann, who makes $3 million, will be of limited use out of the bullpen. He will be used only when he has ample time to warm up, to start an inning and with appropriate rest between appearances.

Maddon said they still consider him a starter, a potentially very good one, and "more of a starter" than Wade Davis, who last year was moved to the bullpen after, ironically, losing out to Niemann for the last spot. But Maddon also said there was no set time frame in which Hernandez would be evaluated and changes considered.

"That has not even been discussed one time," he said.

Marc Topkin can be reached at topkin@tampabay.com.

.Fast facts

The bullpen

RHP Fernando Rodney

2012: 2-2, 48 saves, 0.60

Career: 24-40, 135 saves, 3.75

RHP Joel Peralta

2012: 2-6, 2 saves, 3.63

Career: 10-21, 10 saves, 3.94

RHP Kyle Farnsworth

2012: 1-6, 4.00

Career: 40-62, 52 saves, 4.24

RHP Jamey Wright

2012: 5-3, 3.72

Career: 90-124, 1 save, 4.89

RHP Jeff Niemann

2012: 2-3, 3.08

Career: 40-26, 4.08

LHP Jake McGee

2012: 5-2, 1.95

Career: 10-4, 2.75

LHP Cesar Ramos

2012: 1-0, 2.10

Career: 1-3, 3.91

Hernandez over Niemann for Rays rotation 03/29/13 [Last modified: Friday, March 29, 2013 9:53pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. USF tight end Palmore faces charge of credit card fraud

    Crime

    A University of South Florida football player faces charges of fraudulent use of a credit card and petit theft following his arrest by Temple Terrace police on Monday.

    USF senior tight end Adrian Palmore faces charges of fraudulent use of a credit card and petit theft after his arrest by Temple Terrace police on June 19, 2017. [Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office]
  2. Rowdies defender gets the call to represent Jamaica

    Soccer

    ST. PETERSBURG —- Damion Lowe has loved his first season with the Rowdies but has some other soccer-related business that might pull him away for a bit.

    Family business, too.

    Tampa Bay Rowdies defender Damion Lowe collides with Louisville City FC forward Luke Spencer earlier this year.
  3. Sarasota's Scooter Gennett: Utility man turned historic slugger

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — On June 10, 2009, the Brewers selected a Sarasota High School shortstop in the 16th round of the MLB draft. He'd assembled an impressive resume in prep ball, but as one of more than 1,500 players drafted that year, he had a tough road to the big leagues.

    Cincinnati Reds second baseman Scooter Gennett (4) of Sarasota makes the throw to first as Rays DH Trevor Plouffe (14) grounds into a double play at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg Monday, June 19, 2017. For Gennett, the three-game series this week with the Rays was his first trip back to Tampa Bay since his historic four-home run game June 6, 2017 against St. Louis. DIRK SHADD   |   Times  

  4. Vegas Golden Knights expansion selections

    Lightning Strikes

    Vegas Golden Knights expansion selections

    Goaltenders

    Calvin Pickard, Colorado Avalanche

    J.F. Berube, New York Islanders

    Marc-Andre Fleury, Pittsburgh Penguins

    Forwards

    Teemu Pulkkinen, Arizona Coyotes

    William Carrier, Buffalo Sabres

    Cody Eakin, Dallas Stars …

  5. Lightning's Victor Hedman third in Norris Trophy voting

    Lightning Strikes

    Lightning defenseman Victor Hedman knew he was a long shot to win the Norris Trophy, given to the league's top defenseman, at Wednesday's NHL awards show.

    LAS VEGAS, NV - JUNE 21:  Victor Hedman of the Tampa Bay Lightning attends the 2017 NHL Awards at T-Mobile Arena on June 21, 2017 in Las Vegas, Nevada.  (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images) 700065353