Rotation complete: Rays tab Odorizzi as fifth starter

Jake Odorizzi was received in the seven-player deal that sent James Shields to Kansas City.

Andrew Weber/Andrew Weber-USA TODAY Sports

The Tampa Bay Rays have named their fifth starter: right-hander Jake Odorizzi.

Manager Joe Maddon made the announcement Saturday in Port Charlotte, Fla., after the Rays’ 3-3 tie with the Baltimore Orioles at Charlotte Sports Park. Odorizzi beat out left-handers Cesar Ramos and Erik Bedard for the role in a decision that Maddon on Friday said included "spirited discussion."

"I really can’t describe my feelings right now, to tell you the truth," Odorizzi told reporters. "It’s way too much to put into words, and I don’t think I’d do a good enough job to describe how I’m feeling right now through words. It’s incredible. I don’t even know how to describe it."

Odorizzi, 23, was gained in the same seven-player blockbuster trade with the Kansas City Royals that brought outfielder Wil Myers to Tampa Bay in December 2012. He’s a career 0-2 with a 4.14 ERA and 26 strikeouts in nine appearances (37 innings) with the Royals and Rays. He was 0-1 with a 3.94 ERA and 22 strikeouts in seven appearances (four starts) last year.

Though Maddon said spring results carried little weight, Odorizzi’s numbers in the exhibition season have been respectable. He was 1-1 with a 3.75 ERA and eight strikeouts in five appearances (two starts). Ramos, meanwhile, had no spring decisions with a 2.63 ERA and 11 strikeouts in four appearances (two starts). Bedard, signed at the start of camp on a minor league deal, was 2-2 with a 6.88 ERA and 10 strikeouts in five appearances (three starts).

With Odorizzi as the Rays’ choice, Ramos will be moved to the bullpen, where he has been a mainstay as the team’s long reliever. Maddon told reporters that the Rays had interest in keeping Bedard, a 10-year veteran, at Triple-A Durham. But Bedard has a March 31 opt-out clause in his contract that allows him to explore starter options elsewhere, and he will do so, as confirmed by his agent, Mark Pieper.

The Rays’ fifth-starter spot came open after right-hander Jeremy Hellickson underwent arthroscopic surgery on his right elbow Jan. 29. He’s expected to miss the first six to eight weeks of the season.

But Saturday became Odorizzi’s time to look toward the future.

"I’m very excited," Odorizzi told reporters, "really ready to get going that much more now."

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