Rays' World Series rotation not set
Well-rested Kazmir could get call in Game 1 vs. Phillies
ST. PETERSBURG -- A day after the Rays punched their World Series ticket, manager Joe Maddon wasn't ready to reveal his starting rotation Monday afternoon as his club prepares to face the Phillies in Game 1 on Wednesday night.
"We'll meet [Tuesday] and we'll figure that out," Maddon said. "I'll talk to the pitchers first."
Though the rotation is not announced, Scott Kazmir and James Shields are expected to start Games 1 and 2 in St. Petersburg, followed by American League Championship Series MVP Matt Garza, Andy Sonnanstine in Games 3 and 4 in Philadelphia. That would leave Kazmir, Shields and Garza available for Games 5, 6 and 7, if necessary.
Phillies manager Charlie Manuel also has not officially named his World Series rotation, but on Saturday he denounced the notion that he would shake up his starters, instead affirming that he will stick with the same group and order that he used during the first two rounds of the playoffs.
"Right now," Manuel said, "I'd say our rotation's going to be staying about the same. The way we've got it set up is just like we've always had it. That's the way we start out, so we'll see."
That means that Cole Hamels will pitch Wednesday's Game 1, followed by Brett Myers for the second game in St. Petersburg. Jamie Moyer, despite his postseason struggles, will remain in the rotation to pitch Game 3 in Philadelphia, and Joe Blanton will start Game 4.
"Moyer won a lot of games for us this year," Manuel said. "He's one reason why we're where we're at. He will pitch against whoever we play."
Originally slated to start a potential Game 6 in the American League Championship Series, Kazmir was moved up in the rotation to start Game 5 on Oct. 16 after a disappointing start in Game 2 of the ALCS when he lasted just 4 1/3 innings, surrendering five runs on six hits. His teammates bailed him out, however, as the Rays won, 9-8, in 11 innings.
The southpaw rebounded nicely at Fenway Park in Game 5, scattering just two hits over six scoreless innings. His effort went unrewarded, as Tampa Bay's bullpen collapsed. Just seven outs from elimination, Boston erased a seven-run deficit with just seven outs left to notch an 8-7 victory.
Kazmir has not used his slider much this season, never feeling really comfortable with the pitch thought to be his best entering this season. That was not the case in Game 5.
"The one thing that I saw was more slider, and he had some big strikeouts with it, too," Maddon said. "That was primarily the difference. I thought I could just see his body language. He was really developing a rhythm out there with what he was doing. That's what I saw as being different. His confidence was beginning to build up as the game progressed."
After using Kazmir in Game 5, Maddon felt as though the Rays might reap the benefits of what he perceived as a growth moment for the left-hander.
"Absolutely [it could be a growth moment], and he did his job superbly last night, gave us every chance to win this game," Maddon said a day following Game 5. "I was trying to look at the entire event, him doing what he did [in Game 5], and if we continue to move into the next round. That game could really catapult him into the World Series and a great performance there."
Shields was 0-2 in two ALCS starts with a 3.46 ERA. In Game 1 on Oct. 10, the right-hander allowed just two runs over 7 1/3 innings, but he was out-dueled by the Red Sox's Daisuke Matsuzaka, who allowed only four hits in seven-plus scoreless innings of the Rays' 2-0 loss. In Game 6 at Tropicana Field on Saturday, Shields surrendered four runs on nine hits over 5 2/3 innings in Tampa Bay's 4-2 loss.
"I was just a hair off," said Shields after his last start. "[I] felt like I was just missing. That's why they call it a game of inches."
Garza was simply dominant en route to his ALCS MVP Award. The offseason acquisition from the Twins posted a 1.38 ERA in two starts. In Game 3 at Fenway Park on Oct. 13, allowed only one run over six-plus innings of the Rays' 9-1 victory. In the pennant-clinching victory Sunday night, Garza again allowed just one run and two hits over seven dazzling innings of work.
Garza said he would embrace the idea of starting Game 3 in Philadelphia.
Starting on the road "doesn't bother me a bit, as long as I get the ball," Garza said. "As long as he gives me a chance to pitch in the World Series, I'm all for it. It doesn't matter which game it is."
Sonnanstine, who posted a career-high 13 wins in just his second big league campaign, got the win in Game 4 on Oct. 14 in Boston. The righty allowed the Sox four runs on six hits over 7 1/3 innings to give the Rays a commanding 3-1 ALCS lead.
Sonnanstine "has a lot of deception in his delivery, but what he does really well -- there's a lot of movement in that delivery, and he keeps it intact," Red Sox manager Terry Francona said. "He throws a ball or two and starts to get out of whack, he gathers himself, stays over the rubber, and he's obviously very confident. ... You can tell he feels good about himself -- as he should."
If Kazmir is not the Game 1 starter, Shields is not a legitimate candidate to start the opener, since he would be working on three days' rest. Sonnanstine would be the only rested starter from the ALCS rotation and the chances of him starting Game 1 seem remote. However, under such a scenario, Kazmir could start Game 2 and the Rays could empty their bullpen if he has a short outing since they would have a day off on Friday prior to Game 3. That does not seem necessary given the Kazmir's Game 6 start and the fact either Edwin Jackson or David Price would be available for long duty if Kazmir faced early trouble.
Sonnanstine starting Game 1 looks like even more of a remote possibility when considering it would mean either Garza or Shields would make their second starts on short rest or that either Garza or Shields would make just one start in a seven-game series.
The final option would be for the Rays to use a three-man rotation. Under that scenario, Kazmir and Shields would start Games 1 and 2, but they would all have to come back on short rest. That scenario also seems unlikely since they have a legitimate fourth starter in Sonnanstine.
Maddon pretty much silenced the possibility of a three-man rotation when asked about having anyone pitch on short days rest, saying, "That's not necessary."
Bill Chastain is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.