Roberto Hernandez earned his pitchers’ leap with his complete-game victory over the Arizona Diamondbacks Tuesday night. The Tampa Bay Rays pitcher’s last complete game came in 2010.
The performance comes amid rumblings about the Rays moving to a four-man rotation, as per Michael Periatt of MLB.com, since the way that the remaining schedule is laid out provides four days off in 12 days. The team could go all the way through the month of August needing a fifth starter as little as twice.
In that scenario, Hernandez is likely the odd man out.
With this in mind, Tuesday night looked like—and could very well still be—Hernandez’s last start for the Rays for a while. His outstanding performance, though, could make the Rays at least temporarily reconsider any adjustments to the rotation.
While an optimist can see the value that a top-performing Hernandez can contribute to the rotation, it would come down to either he or Chris Archer being bumped from the rotation. Right now, Archer has the edge.
Sending the rookie pitcher back down to AAA-Durham is not highly likely, due to his recent high performance, including two complete-game shutouts in his last three starts. Archer’s other start was a seven-inning outing in which he only surrendered one earned run against the New York Yankees.
The team could decide, following Tuesday night’s game, to continue with a regular schedule and allow the rotation to get extra rest heading into the final stretch of the season. With David Price coming off the disabled list recently and the youth of Archer and Matt Moore, rest could be beneficial for the team if the productivity can remain.
Even if the team ultimately does not go with a four-man rotation, the return of Alex Cobb places another challenge to Hernandez’s spot in the rotation. Cobb is currently in the process of pitching in rehab games as he works toward returning from the concussion he suffered when he took a ball to the head against the Kansas City Royals on June 15.
It is a very likely scenario that Hernandez, Cobb and Archer will be fighting for two spots in the rotation at some point in the next four to six weeks.
Hope he enjoyed Tuesday night.