Questions remain regarding Rays' fifth starter

Multiple scenarios possible once rotation expands in mid-May

Questions remain regarding Rays' fifth starter

ST. PETERSBURG -- The Rays won't need to expand to a five-man rotation until approximately mid-May. However, they will need a spot start here and there along the way.

Rays manager Kevin Cash has allowed that the first of those here-and-there's will come against the White Sox on either Friday or Saturday.

Thus, there are two questions dangling in the air where the Rays' rotation is concerned: Who will make the first spot start? And, will Erasmo Ramirez regain his spot as the fifth starter once the rotation expands?

The options for the first spot start are as follows: Ramirez, a bullpen day featuring all relievers, or a starter from Triple-A Durham.

Cash told reporters no decision has been made, but he has been firm on the decision that none of the starters in the four-man rotation will pitch on short rest.

Regarding Ramirez's possible return to the rotation, first consider that he has pitched well out of the bullpen. Next, if he re-joins the rotation in mid-May, that would leave a month and a half before Alex Cobb's projected return. Finally, the Rays have highly-touted left-hander Blake Snell pitching at Durham.

Cash didn't go into all the possible scenarios, but when asked if Ramirez would go back into the rotation once they go to five again he replied, "He's going to start for us."

Meanwhile, the easy-going Ramirez doesn't appear to be stressing about his fate.

"It's a decision they made [to put him in the bullpen]," Ramirez said. "They're going to let me know what they want to do. I just have to follow what they want me to do and be ready. It's something I can't control. The only thing I can control is to be ready every day."

Odds and ends

• Cobb threw from the front part of the mound on Tuesday, as did Chase Whitely. The right-handers are on approximately the same track while recovering from Tommy John surgery.

Cobb doesn't know the exact timetable for when he'll be pitching in games again. But he does know that he will throw bullpens, live batting practice, and simulated games then advance to pitching in Minor League rehab games before returning to the Rays.

• When Cash was a coach with the Indians, he lived with Indians manager Terry Francona. Cash laughed when asked which of the pair was messier. "Definitely him. He's messier than my son. He's 3."

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