|The Rays' pitching depth first forced Edwin Jackson out of town and then relegated David Price to Triple-A to start the year. Now an overcrowded rotation and bullpen has prompted Tampa Bay to trade out-of-options righthander Jason Hammel to the Rockies for righthander Aneury Rodriguez. The move signals that Jeff Niemann, who also is out of options, has won the last rotation spot and that veteran relievers Lance Cormier and Joe Nelson have sewn up spots in the bullpen.|
|The Young Players|
|Working mostly as a long reliever/spot starter in 2008, Hammel went 4-4, 4.60 while striking out 44, walking 35 and allowing 11 home runs in 78 1/3 innings. His rates were equally mediocre in both starting and relieving roles, but the 26-year-old's build (he's 6-foot-6, 220 pounds) and raw scouting reports suggest he's capable of much more. Hammel locates a firm 90-94 mph fastball to both sides of the plate, generating plus plane by virtue of his height, and weaves in a similar number of cuveballs, sliders and changeups, depending on what's working for him that day. His changeup has shown the most improvement over the past few years, but his mid-70s curve is his go-to pitch when it's on. In his time with Triple-A Durham, Hammel racked up a 3.97 ERA over 259 innings, while striking out 240 (8.4 per nine), walking 91 (3.2) and serving up 22 home runs (0.8). During the summer of '06, just before his first big league callup, he threw the first 8 1/3 innings of a Bulls' no-hitter in mid-July and registered a 13-strikeout game in August.
Signed by the Rockies out of the Dominican Republic in '05 as a 17-year-old, Rodriguez has exhibited fine control for such a young pitcher, having walked just 144 batters in 446 innings, or 2.9 per nine. The 21-year-old proved his readiness for Double-A with a strong turn in the tough California League last year, which included a second-place showing in strikeouts (139). He went 9-10, 3.74 in 27 starts for Modesto, ranking seventh in the league in ERA and fifth with 156 innings. Perhaps best of all, he permitted just 40 walks and 12 home runs. Rodriguez's fastball sits at 91-92 mph with late movement and his curveball flashes out-pitch potential at times. His changeup shows average potential and his pitch efficiency already belies his age.
|While Hammel's talent and performance track record may have warranted a longer look in Tampa Bay's rotation, his big league performance has been less than sterling. A 5.90 ERA and 1.64 WHIP over 207 innings aren't exactly the stuff dreams are made of. But Hammel has flashed occasional brilliance when given a chance. Keep in mind that he went 2-1, 4.09 in six September '07 starts (27-9 K-BB in 33 innings)—and that was with a historically bad Rays defense and bullpen behind him.