Tampa Bay Rays manager Kevin Cash has been employing an interesting pitching strategy this season, “bullpen days,” with relievers, such as Andrew Kittredge, Sergio Romo and Ryne Stanek starting games, and today’s starter, Ryne Stanek will start on “bullpen day” against the New York Yankees.
“Bullpen day” is pitching strategy the Rays have employed, where, as Tom Shad of USA Today says:
“…they designate an “opening” pitcher who, by design, only pitches a few innings, followed by a parade of relievers. In their first such game this season, in March against the Boston Red Sox, reliever Andrew Kittredge started the game and through [sic] 54 pitches before being replaced in the fourth inning by Yarbrough, who threw 73.”
The bullpen arms facing the Red Sox that day performed ably, though the Rays lost 3-2. The potent Red Sox offense was held to 3 runs on seven hits with one home run by a combination of relievers Andrew Kittredge, Ryne Yarbrough, Sergio Romo and Chaz Roe.
Cash implemented the unusual, but bold strategy of beginning the game with a reliever on May 19 during the series with the Los Angeles Angels, according to Shad, in order to match up Romo with right-handed hitters early in the lineup:
“The way that their lineup stacks generally speaking is very heavy right-handed at the top,” Cash told The Tampa Bay Times. “It allows us in theory to let Sergio to come in there and play the matchup game in the first, which is somewhat unheard of – up until Saturday anyway. … Then Yarbs can, in theory, have the availability to get deeper in the game.”
“Yarbs” is rookie left-handed pitcher, Ryan Yarbrough, who pitched the bulk of the innings after Romo’s start. By having Romo start, it prevented Yarbrough from facing the top of the dangerous Angels’ lineup with Mike Trout, Shohei Ohtani and Justin Upton for a third time in the game.
And it worked. Romo pitched 1.0 innings and gave up no runs, followed by a 1 run 6.1 inning performance by Yarbrough and the Rays beat the Angels 5-3.
Today’s starting pitcher, right-handed reliever/starter Ryne Stanek, has been up and down between the Triple-A Durham Bulls and the Rays this season. And yes, he was named after the Hall of Fame second baseman for the Cubs, Ryne Sandberg, according to MLB.com.
When Stanek takes the mound at Yankee Stadium today it will be with the intention of meeting power with power, as the righty will lock horns with heavy hitters Aaron Judge, Giancarlo Stanton and Didi Gregorius at the top of the order.
According to Statcast, Stanek routinely throws the ball 98.2 mph—among the highest velocity in the league—in ’17, he threw 14 pitches of 100 mph or more, the most for any Ray since Fernando Rodney (23) in 2013.
In his last start against the Baltimore Orioles on May 26, Stanek’s maximum velocity was 100.5 mph.
According to MLB.com, Stanek has made four starts to begin Ray’s games and has an overall record of 1-1 with a 2.76 ERA in 16 innings pitched.