Rays Rotation Is Record-Setting Fountain Of Youth

HOUSTON: Pitcher James Shields #33 of the Tampa Bay Rays is all smiles after recording the final out and his sixth complete game of the season as they defeated the Houston Astros 5-1 at Minute Maid Park in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images)

Bill Chastain reports that the Rays are about to break an ancient record:

Tampa Bay will tie a Major League record Tuesday night when it starts a pitcher under the age of 30 for the 704th consecutive game.

The 1913-1917 Washington Senators, led by Hall of Famer Walter Johnson, set the record.

--snip--

Jae Seo was the last pitcher 30 or older to start a game for the Rays when he did so against Seattle on his 30th birthday on May 24, 2007. Prior to that, the Rays had not started a pitcher 30 or older since 32-year-old Mark Hendrickson made a start against Atlanta on June 25, 2006.

The Rays have used only 14 pitchers during the streak -- eight they drafted, six they traded for -- which is a testament to their commitment to youth and also their amazing ability to keep young pitchers healthy. That latter, more than anything else, explains how the franchise has remained so competitive in recent years without spending real money.

And it looks like the Rays are going to blow past this record. There's obviously nobody on the 25-man roster who's going to bust up the streak. In the event that another starter is needed, the Rays would most likely turn to 28-year-old Andy Sonnanstine. Granted, in the event of a real emergency -- necessitating a dip into the minors -- the club's best choices would include 32-year-old Chris Bootcheck and 30-year-old Dirk Hayhurst.

The most likely pitcher to break the streak is actually James Shields, who will break the record tonight, but would end it next spring since (as Aaron Gleeman points out) he turns 30 this winter. I don't think the Rays are going to trade Shields this week because he's almost 30 ... but they might trade him because he would bring a huge return, and because he'll earn $28 million over the next three seasons. He's well worth $28 million, of course, but 1) the Rays might not want to pay, and 2) that $28 million will seem a bargain to many potential trade partners.

I don't think Shields is going to be traded this week, but with the Rays rapidly falling out of contention lately, it shouldn't be a big surprise if he is.

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