Rays looking for specific skillsets in bullpen

In trying to whittle down candidates, Cash thinking about flexibility with relievers

Rays looking for specific skillsets in bullpen

PORT CHARLOTTE, Fla. -- At this juncture of the spring, the Rays find themselves with a crowded bullpen picture. When Kevin Cash was asked about what he's looking for in the players that will comprise this year's group, the Rays' manager stated the obvious: "We want guys who can get outs."

"Whether they do it with high velocity or other ways," Cash said. "Pitch to their strengths. We've talked about it, but one thing we're trying to find out this spring is who is capable of going more than an inning.

"We're not looking to extend pitchers to get into that three-inning mode. But we do want to have some flexibility where maybe half the guys in the 'pen on a given night are capable of getting four to six outs for us."

Thus, stretching out relievers has been a priority this spring.

"We know Alex Colome can do it," Cash said. "Especially with the workload he had last year as a starter, he's built up, and he's got a very resilient arm.

"[Xavier] Cedeno is probably not a guy we'll ask to do that, because he's so valuable to be able to come in there four out of five nights and maybe get one or two lefties out. Ryan Webb's another guy. Ryan Webb's capable of coming into a ballgame and getting six outs on 20 pitches just because of the heavy sink and some early swings. We are continuing to find out who can get extended a little bit."

Others who could be asked to pitch multiple innings include Andrew Bellatti, Danny Farquhar, Matt Andriese, Enny Romero, Dana Eveland and Steve Geltz.

Cash cited to "constantly have that coverage" as the biggest benefit of having a couple of relievers in the bullpen who can get four to six outs.

"For example, if you have one guy who throws two innings on Monday and then the next day, most likely he's down, and then that other two-inning guy can bounce in," Cash said. "And then you have your one-inning guys and matchup guys to fill in in between that. ... If we can get to where we have two or three guys who are capable of doing that, we should be able to be very smart with the workload of the entire pitching staff."

Ideally, Cash would like to have relievers who can present hitters with different looks.

"You want everybody to have a little bit of difference, because you don't want to bring in basically the same repertoire, the same pitches and action on their pitches," Cash said. "I think it's good to try and balance that out as much as possible. And we do. The organization and front office did a good job of bringing in some guys who give us different looks to complement the guys we know will be in the bullpen this year."

Finally, having relievers who can be comfortable with runners on base when entering the game is also a factor.

"We'd like all of our bullpen guys to be comfortable, somewhat," Cash said. "I don't think you can do it every time. [Pitching coach Jim Hickey] and I last year valued that right at the top with our decision making.

"As far as pulling starters, didn't want to put relievers in that situation all the time. We're both very much in agreement, one extra batter for the starter, that intensifies it for the reliever. So if it's OK to make the move right then and give that reliever a clean inning, ideally, that's what we try to do. That's obviously not going to always happen. But that fresh inning always seems to bode well for those guys."

Bill Chastain is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.