Moore, Niemann round out rotation
Maddon announces Rays starting five; Davis to bullpen
PORT CHARLOTTE, Fla. -- Speculation about who would be in this year's Rays rotation has run rampant ever since the team bowed out of the playoffs in October.
Tuesday the suspense ended: Jeff Niemann and Matt Moore will be in the Rays' starting rotation; Wade Davis will be in the bullpen.
Joe Maddon gave reporters the news Tuesday before boarding the team bus for a game against the Red Sox in Fort Myers.
"A lot of discussion the whole camp, primarily [the decision] was not based necessarily on any kind of Spring Training performance," the Rays manager said. "Right now we like the idea of Wade in the bullpen."
Maddon took time to point out that this wasn't a typical battle for a spot in the rotation "because we have such faith in both of these guys."
"It's unusual to have this kind of quality coming down to the decision-making process," Maddon said. "That made it even more difficult. Having said that, we just liked the idea of Jeff in the rotation right now, we also liked having Wade in the bullpen, just based on their abilities."
Maddon called the decision one of the hardest the Rays have had to make since he's been the manager.
"It's not like you don't like Wade, you just had to make a decision," Maddon said.
He complimented Davis for taking the news well. Davis, who went 11-10 with a 4.45 ERA in 29 starts for the Rays in 2011, was gracious after hearing the news.
"It's going to be fun," Davis said. "It's going to be a fun year regardless of where anyone is pitching or how things are going. It will be fun to get down to the bullpen and learn some new things. Pick the brains of the guys who have pitched for a long time in the big leagues. So it will be fun to get down there and help out. ... I'm good. It will be a good experience."
Niemann, who went 12-8 with a 4.39 ERA in 30 appearances last season, is good friends with Davis. He, too, was gracious about the decision.
"I really had no idea how it would play out," Niemann said. "You've got two extremely-high-quality people in the deal, and it's kind of a win-win for the organization. I'm glad that I'm in the rotation, and I'm glad we're still here."
Davis did not see Tuesday's news as a demotion.
"We're still all going for the same thing," Davis said. "Get to the World Series as a team."
When asked exactly what Davis' role will be in the bullpen, Maddon said that initially he will be used early on in the game, but added that his role can "get meatier as it goes along."
"At the end of the day, we still consider [Davis] a starter," Maddon said.
As for Moore making the team, Maddon noted that when everyone watches the 22-year-old left-hander, "It's different," and he meant "different" in a good way. The highly touted Rays southpaw enters the season ranked by MLB.com as the No. 1 prospect in baseball.
"He's one of those young starters -- if you're thinking can handle it emotionally, mentally and physically -- you have to give him that opportunity," Maddon said.
Moore he had a "nice feeling" about being in the rotation.
"At the same time, everybody's still going to be here," Moore said. "The roles are just a little reversed right now. At any point, it can change. But right now it's nice to know that I have two starts left in Spring Training and here we go."
Now that the rotation has been decided, Niemann was asked what he thought of the finished product.
"It's one of those things you look at it, even the whole team in general, and you say, 'Hey, we can do some things,'" Niemann said. "So if everyone goes out there and plays their role, does their part, it should be a very exciting season."
Bill Chastain is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.