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Rays need to fill hole in starting rotation

Hellickson injured
Hellickson injured
Photo by Brian Blanco/Getty Images

Jeremy Hellickson of the Tampa Bay Rays had elbow surgery and will be out at least six to eight weeks to start the season. Hellickson had a rough season last year but fans were hoping he could bounce back this year. Now that he is injured there will be an open spot in the starting pitching rotation for the Rays. Could Jake Odorizzi or Alex Colome be the answer? Both of these young players had some quality games with the Rays last season. Pitching is definitely going to be a question with Tampa Bay in 2014. With Alex Torres being traded a few weeks ago it is unclear who will be the Rays' fifth starter. The starting rotation as of now is David Price, Alex Cobb, Matt Moore and Chris Archer. There are many teams in big leagues who don't know their entire pitching rotation as we head into spring training. Many young players are competing for a spot in the big leagues this spring as this could be a great opportunity to shine for Odorizzi and Colome.

Jose Lobaton was also traded as spring ball gets under way. The Rays received Nathan Karns from the Washington Nationals while giving up Lobaton and two more prospects. Karns is a right-handed pitcher with great numbers in the minors and can easily hit the mid-90s. Could he come on strong enough to fill the fifth starting spot? The Rays traded for Ryan Hanigan this offseason and re-signed Jose Molina. This has made Lobaton available for a trade as not many teams bring three catchers to spring. Lobaton won some big games last year for Tampa Bay. He will certainly be missed as the ice cream man. Molina will likely be hurt or not strong enough to finish the season so trading Lobaton may have been a bad decision but bringing in young quality pitching prospects is what Andrew Friedman has a great eye for.

Pitching has been a very strong point for the Rays over the last few years. This has been their DNA and reason why they have become a winning ball club. It is very important Tampa gets a quality fifth starter this spring. The Rays are not made to score seven runs a game so the defense needs to be solid. Matt Joyce looks to be the designate hitter this season. Joyce did hit the weights this offseason and gained 20 pounds of muscle. Hopefully this will allow for more pop off the bat as his numbers were down last year.

Grant Balfour was a big pick up this season for the bullpen. He will certainly be the closer come April. The Rays dished out some big money and are hoping this could be the year. This is the highest payroll this team has ever had. Filling the final spot in the starting rotation will be the big decision during spring training. Pitchers and catchers just reported on Friday to Port Charlotte so baseball season is officially here.