The Tampa Bay Rays needed a new pitcher after Matt Andriese left his May 30 start against the Texas Rangers with a groin strain. Andriese was placed on the 10-day disabled list, but the good news was that he was only supposed to miss one start.
Jacob Faria Looks Like He’s Here to Stay
So, for that one start, the Rays called up Jacob Faria to make his MLB debut. The 23-year-old right-hander was having a great Triple-A season. He had a 3.07 ERA and 3.21 FIP in 11 starts. He’d also struck out 84 batters in just 58 2/3 innings. He’d earned his shot. It was supposed to be just one spot start and then back to the Durham Bulls. Now, however, it’s starting to look like Faria may have pitched his last minor-league game.
Faria’s First Three Starts
Jacob Faria pitched 6.1 innings in his MLB debut against the Chicago White Sox at Tropicana Field on June 7. He gave up just one run on three hits and two walks, while striking out five. He was sent back down after that strong first impression, but was quickly recalled after Andriese’s return was cut short. Andriese left his June 10 start against the Oakland Athletics with a hip injury. He’ll likely be on the disabled list until sometime in August.
Faria’s first start back was against the Toronto Blue Jays at Rogers Centre on June 13. Again, Faria gave up just one run over 6.1 innings, this time striking out eight while scattering six hits and a walk. His most recent start came June 18 against the Detroit Tigers at Comerica Park. For the second time in a row, Faria bettered his previous effort. This time he pitched through the seventh, again giving up just one run on six hits and a walk, while striking out nine.
Faria’s first three starts have already put him in some pretty neat company. He’s the first pitcher since 1980 pitch six-plus innings, allow one or fewer runs, and earn the win in each of his first three MLB starts. In fact, he’s the only Rays starter this year to have pitched six-plus innings in three straight starts and give up fewer than two runs in all of them. He also joined Jeremy Hellickson as the only Rays pitchers to ever win their first three appearances. Faria’s carried over his strong Triple-A season into the big leagues and hasn’t missed a beat. He’s posted a 1.37 ERA, a 0.97 WHIP, and a 1.50 FIP, with 22 strikeouts to just four walks and no home runs in 19.2 innings. He’s already accumulated 1.0 fWAR.
The Rotation and the Playoff Race
The way Faria’s pitching, it’s going to be awfully hard to send him down. Given the current state of the Rays rotation, they may not have to. Andriese is out until sometime in August. By that time, it’s possible Alex Cobb will no longer be a Ray. The Rays, at 37-35, aren’t just hanging around in the playoff race. They’re actually leading the extremely tight race for the American League’s second Wild Card; that race, incredibly, separates the Rays and the AL’s last-place team, the A’s, by just 4.5 games, with a nine-team mess bunched up in between them. The Rays are also just 3.5 games back of the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox, who are currently tied for the AL East lead and the first AL Wild Card.
So, for the moment, the Rays don’t look like sellers. Sure, there’s time for things to go poorly enough between now and the trade deadline that they do end up sellers. Even if they aren’t, a Cobb trade is a still a possibility. The Rays don’t like letting quality free agents leave for nothing, especially starting pitchers. A lot will go into the decision to either trade or keep him. They’ll look at how they’re playing, how Cobb’s pitching, and what other teams are offering for him. If the Rays are in good shape, they could hang on to him for the rest of the season as their own rental. However, the possibility of a trade still exists. That possibility could be even stronger if Faria can keep this up. The Rays will want to still feel good about their rotation if they take Cobb out of it.
Knocking on the Door
At some point, the Rays may also want to give Blake Snell another shot. Since being demoted to Triple-A, Snell has a 2.84 ERA and 3.03 FIP in six starts. He’s averaged more than six innings per start, and has 53 strikeouts to just 14 walks in 38 innings. At this point, though, the guy Snell would replace looks like it wouldn’t be Jacob Faria, but rather Erasmo Ramirez.
Ramirez has struggled over his last four starts, getting through the fifth inning just once. In his seven starts this season, his ERA is now 6.48. Ramirez had a 3.05 ERA in 20.2 innings of relief this season before being moved to the rotation for Snell. The Rays are desperate for relievers not named Alex Colome who they can trust. Right now, it looks like Ramirez may have more value to the Rays there, especially with Snell’s strong performance in Durham perhaps being close to earning him another shot in Tampa Bay.
Here to Stay?
When Jacob Faria was first called up the Rays, it was just supposed to be for one start. He wasn’t supposed to be done with the minors. Yet, between his performance and other circumstances surrounding the Rays rotation, Faria looks like he could have an opportunity to stick in the big leagues. There will surely be bumps in the road eventually, but if Faria can keep anything close to this up, the Rays will be more than happy to find a way for him to stay in their rotation.