In the name of evolving, the Rays optioned right-handed pitchers Chris Archer and Jake Odorizzi to Triple-A Durham along with left-hander Alex Torres. This latest round of roster cuts gives the Bulls a potential rotation of: Archer, Odorizzi, Torres, Alex Colome, and Mike Montgomery; a group that may have more talent than some major-league rotations.
Torres, 25, struggled to say the least in 2012. He began the year on the cusp of the major leagues; however, landed back in the Gulf Coast League—essentially the lowest level of the minors—searching for his mechanics. Under the tutelage of pitching coach Marty DeMerritt, Torres make some strides and regained some control as he returned to Durham at the end of the season.
That progress continued in the Venezuelan Winter League and in a brief showing with the Rays this spring. If Torres’ changes—in both mechanics and pitch selection—carry over into the minor-league regular season, he may find himself back on the doorstep to the big leagues once again.
Lurking in the shadow of Wil Myers, Jake Odorizzi could be the fourth or fifth starter on a number of teams—including his previous employers. In the pitching rich Rays’ organization, he finds himself somewhere around eighth on the depth chart. All things considered, some additional time in Triple-A is not a bad thing for the 22-year-old. Odorizzi has more polish than Archer or Torres, but with that polish comes slightly diminished stuff. With that in mind, things like fastball command, and an understanding of how to use his secondary pitches, becomes paramount.
Odorizzi’s fastball, while not the quality of some others in the system, is still an above-average pitch that sits in the low 90s. It is also a pitch he can throw in the zone for strikes. The problem with that is sometimes the fastball flattens out and can be hit hard if located in the wrong part of the zone. For Odorizzi, the focus should be on the lower portion of the strikezone where the damage can be limted even if he misses his spot.
As for secondary stuff, he throws a changeup, slider, and curveball – all rating out as average or slightly better. That said, none stick out as an out-pitch. Perhaps working with Bulls’ pitching coach Neil Allen can bring some refinement in that area. As it stands, he finds himself jockeying for position with Archer for the first call-up in the event of injury, ineffectiveness, or unforeseen roster change.
Speaking of Allen, as R.J. Anderson pointed out, he will once again be reunited with his “pheeee-nom” in Chris Archer. You can make the case that Archer, based on talent, is one of Tampa Bay’s top four pitchers. However, with serviceable, veteran arms, like Jeff Niemann and Roberto Hernandez on guaranteed, seven-figure contracts, the Rays can delay Archer’s full-time arrival in favor of more time dedicated to the growth his talented right arm.
Archer has proven he can pitch at the major-league level, but in order to sustain a high level of success, he must improve his fastball command and continue to work with his changeup. For the 24-year-old, North Carolina native it is not a matter of if he’ll pitch for the Rays in 2013, it is when. And despite him having to spend some extra time in the minor leagues, it would not hurt to start the conversation about a major-league extension.